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Author: Justin Mckibben
Probably one of the biggest misconceptions of recovery for people on the outside looking in, whether they are spectators or potential members, is that sobriety is boring. Many people believe that in recovery there is no room for excitement and adventure in the night life. Some people think it is hiding in meetings and holding onto a “Big Book” like a life preserver. So when we talk about the sober club life, people are frequently confused, sometimes even terrified for us.
But the truth is sobriety is about freedom. Some of us experience our recovery in different ways, and not everyone is the same. There is freedom in the fact you can practice your recovery in ways only you may have that intrinsic connection to. So the sober club life is not an theoretical concept, it is a gift some find in sobriety.
Now, as more young people are becoming active in the recovery community, the search for the night life in recovery is taking new form. New sober clubs are making waves and gaining fans all over the world. Now, one of the hottest Miami clubs is starting its own sober club life.
Sober Club Life: Daybreaker in Miami
In a city known for its nightlife, the sober club life finding such an exclusive spot something entirely new. Daybreaker, the early morning dance party, debuted at LIV nightclub this past Wednesday morning with a great deal of success. While it isn’t exactly a “nightlife” event, since it’s going down while the sun is coming up, it is a unique clubbing experience.
After over 4,000 people emailed Daybreaker about coming to Miami to bring its brand of sober club life to South Florida, co-founder Radha Agrawal told the Miami New Times,
“LIV then approached us to partner, and we are excited to help tell a different story and define a new way to connect and self-express.”
Instead of dark and brooding music, the soundtrack is fun and uplifting. Soul house, funk house, disco house. The goal is to start the day off right, with high energy and inspiration. The environment emphasizes joy, mindfulness, and intention. Last year Brimer went into detail about this, stating:
“We want to take out all the bad stuff associated with clubbing: the drinking and self-destructive behavior and mean bouncers, and just bring people together,”
The sober club life event begins at 6am. Tickets for the Daybreaker morning run around $20-$35. With growing popularity, some events have reached a crowd of around 400-500 attendees.
Sober Club Life: Daybreaker Lineup
The lineup for the Miami launch is currently a short list, but seems pretty legit. It’s not just for shaking respective groove things, but for a high energy start to the day. The big lineup included:
- 6am to 7am- Yoga with “rockstar yogi” Pablo Lucero
- 7am to 9am- Signature dance party with beats from DJ Alyx Ander
The idea is to wrap it all up in time for plenty of people to head to work. Since it is a morning affair, the menu makes sense.
- Instead of a liquor bar, there is coffee and fresh juice (of the orange or fruit variety)
- Instead of drugs, the club offers breakfast
The idea is to get the morning kicked off with dancing and movement, because these activities releases endorphins and other happy chemicals in the body. The Eventbrite for the Daybreaker states:
“Our goal is to bring Miami together with more mindfulness, wellness, mischief, self-expression and camaraderie.”
“With everything going on in the world these days, we need it more than ever.”
So, for those who want to start the day with sober clubbing, the Daybreaker give you yoga, dancing and good food for your good vibes.
Sober Club Life: My Experience
While I have not had the opportunity to check out the sober club life via Daybreakers, I was very fortunate to begin my journey in sobriety with a similar concept. A few years ago I was lucky enough to receive treatment at Palm Partners Recovery Center in Delray Beach, Florida. Every day starts off in pretty much the same way. After breakfast I was given a chance to dance with the community, with a colorful light show and live DJ. It was pretty counter-intuitive at first, but quickly became a highlight of the day. Over three years later, I am the DJ.
There is absolutely something to be said about getting up and active in the morning and what it does to set the tone for your day. I can only imagine Daybreakers is getting plenty of people looking for a sober club off to a great start.
Since my initial experience at Palm Partners, I can say I have continued the habit of being expressed, energetic and active in sobriety. I have been to raves with hundreds upon hundreds of people in Miami. I’ve had the chance to see a lot of awesome performers live in various venues across South Florida, and I have taken many opportunities to experience the fun that comes from the freedom of sobriety. All this makes me want to focus on one important concept.
Sober Club Life: The Freedom of Sobriety
There is a passage in the primary text of the 12 Step Fellowship that speaks on the freedom sobriety provides to those who seek it with honesty and thoroughness. It is possibly one of my favorite passages, and it states:
“He [the alcoholic] can go anywhere on this earth where other free men may go without disaster, provided he remains willing to maintain a certain simple attitude.”
There are those who would debate the interpretation of these words. In the context, the quote is referring to an individual who was once considered an utterly hopeless alcoholic by a great physician. This expert opinion tells him he will never regain his position in society. However, the paragraphs following the pages further express the incredible phenomena of “spiritual experiences” that create exceptions to the most hopeless cases.
Some may take this story as one of warning. I, however, have a different perspective. These few sentences give me great hope, because they assure me I am a free man in sobriety.
The important piece for me is the “simple attitude” I keep. I believe that for me to keep this amazing gift of freedom, I have to maintain my understanding of who I am, what my experience has taught me, and how I impact others. The design for living to me means being introspective in personal inventory, faithfully accountable to those I can help, and willing to seek more extraordinary experiences that will inspire a new perspective. That same 12 Step literature tells me:
“We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality – safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.”
In this position of neutrality, I feel safe. The problems of the past, the obsession, have been removed. So I go where any other free man can go; clubs, concerts, anywhere that this new and amazing life has given me the opportunity to be, because I am a free man. A sober club life is nothing abstract at all; it is simply what some of us chose to do with the freedom recovery blesses us with.
Not drinking or using drugs is only the beginning. Life is so much more. I, as a man in recovery, must be willing to do more if I am to fulfill my life. That, in turn, has given me freedom. Taking the first steps can be the hardest part, but we want to help. You are not alone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorder or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Here we are going to discuss some expert opinion on the molecular neurobiological aspects of each of The 12 Step Program.
Understanding of the neuro-molecular biological keystones of The 12 Steps may actually be an important step toward sobriety for some, especially those who rely heavily on the tangible logic of scientific reasoning. To understand and embrace principles of molecular neurobiology could ultimately lead to a better quality of recovery from addiction.
Step 1- We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
There is science behind the “powerlessness” of the first step. Admitting personal powerlessness over addiction is actually supported by the mechanisms involved in the neurobiological circuits of our brain. Stress and the toxic-effects of the drugs themselves induce changes in brain functions such as:
These changes create:
So scientifically it is very true that the individual is powerless. The substances themselves continually short out the circuits in the brain that are meant to give people control. The recipe requires genetic predisposition and environmental elements, but everyone is technically susceptible depending on these variables.
Step 2- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Breaking down the wording of the step one could infer:
- Sanity- sound judgment
- Insanity- repetitive behavior despite the harm
Poor judgment, or “insanity,” could be a cause of unusual substance seeking behavior despite risk of harm. These decisions are made worse by environmental factors including:
- Drug availability
- Non-nurturing parents
- Social-economic burdens
The individuals sanity also may be impacted by their relationship with a “power greater than themselves.”
In this case, let us look at relapse. The prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus are critical areas involved in relapse regulation. Impaired neurochemical functioning of these regions obstruct recovery and induce relapse, typically due to:
- Toxic substances
- Toxic behaviors
Understanding the molecular biology of the brain reward system highlights the importance of positive input from a fellowship such as the 12 Steps offer. Positive input from peers can offset unwanted gene expression. Ultimately, this can enable an individual to achieve a state of sanity and make right choices. The power greater than yourself can simply be the environmental element of your recovery.
Step 3- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
Will-power is extremely difficult to regulate in individuals born with a compromised reward system and low levels of endorphins. Will-power is based on both the interplay of genes and environmental elements in society, such as stress or shock. Early stress can cause substance use disorders in adult life as seen with epigenetic effects on Glucocorticoid receptor express.
Because the hard wiring of our brain’s reward circuitry is so difficult to override, it only makes sense the recovering addict seems obvious to look for reward outside of our genome. So in this step, the idea is to turn that focus away from drugs and toward something such as the fellowship or a spiritual path.
Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Fearless moral inventory must include the drug of choice and other Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) related behaviors. A particular drug or behavior is not the only element of an addiction, it includes a range of observable characteristics resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment..
However, the inventory cannot be labeled as “right” or “wrong” because it their own evaluation of self. To understand that there are genetic and environmental aspects to addict means to understand that blame and guilt are not conducive to true self-appraisal.
Step 5- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This step involves open reflection on our issues with using drugs. This includes the toxic effects of recurrent exposure to these substances on our minds and how that translates into our actions that impact others.
The damage of drugs on the brain’s reward networks is very physiological, and these physiological changes can result in psychological effects such as anxiety or aggression. By evaluating the inventory we have taken, we can consider the “nature of our wrongs” as being the psychological deterioration caused by drugs.
Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Many would argue that technically our character is shaped by genetic (evolutionary) forces far outside our individual control. So in that mindset it is not necessarily within our ability to change who we are genetically speaking. So, wouldn’t it be up to something greater than us, be it a ‘God’ or our own evolution of perspective, to remove the character traits that do not serve us?
With that said, our environment may influence how we have developed our responses and attached meanings to circumstances. Achievement of step 6 requires:
- Deep character analysis
- Painful realization
- Ability to dissociate the present self from the past self
By rethinking in terms of the “wrong” or “right” of an individual act, we can leave behind our attachments to actions or behaviors and offer up our character defects to the province of a higher power.
Step 7- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humility is accompanied with gratitude and grace. Spiritual faith and humility challenge someone to accept that good intentions and honest effort alone will not always be enough to succeed. This could lead to chronic depression and relapse, especially with genetic predisposition.
However, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions together ask the person to believe that evil, injustice and cruelty will not necessarily always win either.
Humility and faith are not necessarily synonyms for passivity. They actually support the belief that our shortcomings can be removed by our willingness to believe that things can work out. Positive feelings translate to positive epigenetics in the brain, enhancing the chances of removing our shortcomings by expressing more effective and positive genes.
Step 8- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Behind part of this step is the old saying “water seeks its own level,” because it may be an effect of a genetic association. People often seek friends who not only have similar characteristics, but similar genotypes.
So by making amends which may eliminate certain friends that would not be conducive to recovery, an individual is truly going against the genetic grain on a molecular neurobiological level.
A form of happiness is that people exist in comfortable networks of social collectives. So as we reach out to those we have hurt to amend our relationships and our character, we reconnect with a new source of happiness.
Step 9- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
In Step 9, the achievement of making amends is subject to correlations among:
Relationships and happiness are based on neuronal hard wiring. So overcoming relationship issues is both an arduous challenge and a clear answer to achieving healing.
The degree to which someone can make amends is crucial to a healthy recovery. This is partly because mending of relationships is a gateway to the attainment of happiness. Making amends can also activate a natural release of dopamine in reward centers of the brain.
Step 10- Take personal inventory and admit to being wrong
Step 10 is the maintenance for Steps 4 and 5. It continues the practice of taking personal inventory in the 12 Steps to evaluate the self. It is important that addicts realize that depending on their genetic risk taking inventory and feeling good about the self-appraisal is a temporarily “dopamine fix”.
Beyond just having the ability to keep yourself in check and have a positive impact, when addicts continue to “work the steps” on a daily basis it also gives them a primary source from which to replenish dopamine in the brain.
Step 11- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Meditation and prayer, as suggested in step 11, increases the release of dopamine at the synaptic level. Applying the process of step 11 on a daily basis will also offset the genetically induced “hypodopaminergic brain function” by continuing to release dopamine in the synapse.
Increased dopamine will result in a subsequent proliferation of dopamine receptors, even in those with the most sensitive predisposition. The increase in D2 receptors translates to enhanced dopamine function, which will ultimately promote:
- Greater confidence
- Better comprehension
- Stress resistance
Looking outside the 12 Steps, most who study spirituality know the positive effects of prayer and meditation on the brain.
Step 12- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Here it says that working all the steps can allow an individual to have spiritual awakening. For some, one of the most fulfilling experiences they can have is sharing emotions with others. This experience itself and the impact may be decided by the synthesis and release of the brain chemical oxytocin.
Oxytocin is an important human bonding neuropeptide. However, independent of personal genetic makeup, alcohol and opiates significantly impair the synthesis and release of this chemical. So it is important to take advantage of this opportunity to create positive emotions while establishing connections.
So, by carrying the message and sharing experience we can bond further in our recovery, which helps us to rewire the brain with expressions of positive genes while also letting us detach from old meanings and produce more dopamine. All in all the 12 Steps have a pretty decent formula for working with the science of the brain to recover from a pattern of destruction.
The 12 Steps and similar programs of recovery are all very powerful tools. A holistic treatment program like Palm Partners respects the science of addiction, and many seek help here in order to establish a strong footing to move forward. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
First thing is first- I whole-heartedly admit that I’m about as close to perfect as I am to finding a million dollars in Spanish doubloons… on Mars. I have no business being judgmental… yet, here we are! Not to say I judge everyone (out loud), but it is a natural inclination as a breathing person to form opinions based on assumptions. When it comes to clichés in recovery, I am especially picky.
It’s weird though, because even saying that clichés drive me crazy, I cannot in good conscience suggest that I myself do not use them. Some are just too catchy to pass up for that ‘right place, right time’ moment. Sometimes I cringe even after I say it, or preface it with “as much as I hate clichés…” in some lame attempt to sound more original than the last person I heard say it.
Needless to say, clichés in the rooms of 12 Step Fellowships of recovery are so popular because they make so much sense. Curse you logic! Metaphors and idioms are a useful tool of language, and in recovery our clichés can drive home a life-or-death ideal with subtle and subliminal accuracy.
So, as much as I hate to admit I like them, here are my 4 favorite recovery clichés.
“Not matter where I go, there I am”
This one seems pretty obvious, and the first time I heard it I didn’t understand. Still, coming out of a fog of drugs and drinking I thought, “thanks, Confucius!”
However, the longer I looked at it in early recovery the sentence made a lot more sense. I had spent a lot of time in active addiction trying to change my circumstances and outcomes by changing my surroundings. I tried different people, places and parties but found the same demoralization every single time. But I cannot out-run my problems! I have to let them teach my about myself and change from there.
It was in recovery when I started facing my personal flaws and patterns of destructive behavior that I realized it wasn’t about a location or other people. I discovered that it meant if I could not change my mind, I would only understand the world from an alcoholic perspective. No matter what place I’m in physically, I am still me and that is what I have to develop for my life to be any better.
“Everyone got the manual for life but me”
This is probably the one that I related to most in early recovery. Despite not having spent much time in the rooms, as soon as I heard this it made sense. My whole life had felt like a misinformed trial run. Any minute I was expecting a director to step in and call a cut to let me start over with a better script.
When I heard it at a 12 Step meeting I was instantly relieved to know I was not the only one who lived like that. It was an incredible catharsis to finally be given the gift of knowing I wasn’t the only one who has next to nothing figured out!
Thankfully, knowing this gave me some freedom to allow myself some mistakes while figuring out sobriety, and life.
“Comparing my insides to your outsides”
I actually have a lot of love for this one. It goes hand in hand with the last one on the list, but I like to single this aspect out an elaborate on it. When I was early in recovery I was constantly focused on the way people appeared to be. I didn’t put any energy into trying to understand what they may be going through or what they had to overcome to get there. I essentially assumed that anyone who had cleaned up nice was feeling good all the time.
This kind of thinking puts us in a position to be relentlessly critical of our own growth. We try to compare the struggles we are going through to someone who may look like they have their life together. It’s easy to think all these healthy and happy people could never understand your pain if you don’t even consider their insides too.
After a few years I know that even when someone looks pristine, they can be on the verge of falling to pieces. I’ve seen that guy. I’ve even been that guy. Sometimes I still am that guy. Recovery continues to teach me the book truly can’t be judged by the cover. If you won’t bother to skim the story, don’t make a synopsis.
“The first step is the only step you have to do 100%”
The first step can draw a line in the sand that the sense of self isn’t willing to cross. There is so much ego, fear and stigma in the way people are afraid to find out what it means to stand on the other side. Admitting to being an alcoholic/addict frightens some because it means they have to commit to an image they don’t fully understand. That goes hand in hand with the second part of step one- admitting that life has become unmanageable.
I love this cliché because of the undeniable truth behind it. It lets me know I may fall short with other tasks when working the 12 steps. In recovery, I may try honestly and thoroughly to rid myself of character defects or resentments, but if I fail to do so perfectly am I doomed? This cliché tells me no.
As long as I am willing to admit that I am who I am; that once I start drinking or using I cannot stop; that running my life on my rules of ego, fear and self-will run riot will not serve my sobriety… I have an opportunity for a better life. As long as I keep in mind that there is work to be done, I have a chance to do the work. This cliché tells me that even when I forget my other responsibilities, if I can remember this first step I have hope. I fall short all the time. Luckily, I was given the perspective that I’m allowed to.
So when I judge you for using every cliché in the “recycled insight” catalog, we both have to accept that we aren’t perfect anyway.
The 12 Steps are a guideline for how to live life as a better person. It’s about being a positive contribution and growing as an individual. In these fellowships we hear clichés, and many of them are like everything else in 12 Step Fellowships- taught from experience. For many, part of the experience begins with effective treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling from substance abuse or addiction, we’re here to help, 24/7.
CALL NOW! 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Break out the cake and party hats ladies and gentlemen, because we have one hell of a birthday to celebrate today. On this day, June 10 1935- 81 years ago, a stockbroker from New York and a doctor from Ohio set out on a journey through tragedy into sobriety that would help reshape the course of history for countless millions of men, women and families. These two men, who both had been captured and contorted by the desperation and disaster that alcoholism brings into the lives of all it touches, found a common bond through their common peril and ultimately devised a common solution that has brought new freedom and a new happiness to so many. Today we celebrate the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous and the history of a fellowship that has saved lives in all corners of the world.
For those of you who have never read “Bill’s Story,” Bill Wilson was a man who’s drinking career had stretched from his time serving his country to his time suffering with the rest of the Wall Street giants of his time when the stock market came crashing down. His personal accounts adding into the beginning of the big book contain some of my own favorite passages, and his experience with drinking and struggling to recover is one of the first introductions in the book of AA that teaches potential alcoholics about the disease they face.
History goes on to tell us Bill Wilson had experienced some success battling his alcoholism with the help of a national organization founded by Lutheran minister Dr. Frank Buchman called the Oxford Group, which promoted waiting for divine guidance in every aspect of life. Wilson then tried to spread what he had learned to help other alcoholics, but none of them were able to become sober.
Despite all his attempts, Bill was still struggling to spread his message with any effectiveness all the way up until June 1935. At the time Wilson was on a business trip in Akron, Ohio, when he suddenly felt temptation standing against his sobriety.
Wilson was fortunate enough to reach a local Oxford Group member, Henrietta Buckler Seiberling, who put Wilson in contact with Dr. Robert D Smith- AKA “Dr. Bob.” Dr. Bob was an alcoholic who had recently joined the Oxford Group. Upon contacting the doctor, Bill explained his own journey into sobriety and how important his actions were to maintaining it, which had a profound impression on Dr. Bob. The two men decided to develop an approach based in altruism that would allow alcoholics to remaining sober through the personal support of other alcoholics.
Then on this day, June 10, Dr. Bob sat outside an Akron hospital and drank a beer to steady his hands for surgery; the last drink he ever had.
The First AA Group
Now it is important to note that the name Alcoholics Anonymous had not yet been coined. The original basic text of “Alcoholics Anonymous” the book was not written published 1939.
But at the time of these two men designing their system for the solution they had already begun devoting their free time to reforming other alcoholics at Akron’s City Hospital. At the time they were at least able to help one man achieve sobriety, and according to the Alcoholics Anonymous Web site these three men- “actually made up the nucleus of the first A.A. group.”
- In 1935, a second group of alcoholics formed in New York
- In 1939 a third group of alcoholics formed in Cleveland
When the group did publish its textbook, “Alcoholics Anonymous” it explained the group’s philosophy, including the now well-known 12 steps of recovery that have made a incredible and compassionate impact world-wide. Wilson wrote the text, and according to the AA website- “emphasized that alcoholism was a malady of mind, emotions and body.”
This basic text includes chapters serving to show the medical standpoint, address the importance of a spiritual element, and even gives personal stories from members of AA meant to relay the realities of alcoholism and relate to those who may not be sure what they are suffering from.
AA All Grown Up
Alcoholics Anonymous has not stopped growing since the beginning. The textbook was updated a few times over the years to keep up with the increase of members, and to keep up with the times and relate to the reader. According to the A.A. Web site,
- 100,000 recovered alcoholics worldwide by 1950
- Also in 1950, Alcoholics Anonymous. held its first international convention in Cleveland
Due to the fact that by the very nature of protecting anonymity in the fellowship, most groups don’t keep formal membership lists, which makes it difficult to obtain accurate figures on membership. The Alcoholics Anonymous. Web site estimates:
- Over 2 million members worldwide
- More than 55,000 groups and roughly 1.2 million members in the U.S. alone
- AA exists in 170 countries
- The book “Alcoholics Anonymous”- also known as “The Big Book” has been translated in 67 languages
The June 10 Founders’ Day is celebrated yearly in Akron to celebrate this momentous anniversary of the fantastic and amazing fellowship and the humbling origins of its inception. Every day all over the world there are countless numbers of men and women, who would not normally mix; from all walks of life, that gather together in club-houses, churches and even on the beach to share experience, strength and hope with one another for the primary purpose of carrying the message of AA and recovery to those who still suffer. Every day this world is changing, and every day these men and women who have walked through the darkest and most agonizing parts of themselves turn their life and their will over in the service of humanity and making themselves better in order for that world to be better.
And to think it all started 81 years ago because one doctor couldn’t stop drinking and one stockbroker who used to be a drunk wanted to help, because he never wanted to drink again either. Thankfully, because of people like them, I know I never have to drink again.
The legacy of AA has its traditions, so normally I would refrain from anything that could be considered promotion and stand by the ideals of attraction, but today I will acknowledge the great work 12 Step fellowships have accomplished, because it’s a birthday after all.
While 12 Step fellowships are often the means by which many alcoholics and addicts recover, there is often a need for comprehensive and therapeutic treatment options in order to begin the recovery process. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Last year there was story that came to the forefront in the recovery community concerning the most well-known anonymous fellowship in the 12 Step world… AA. When the story broke it was reported that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. was being sued by the family of Karla Brada, who was killed by Eric Earle, a man she met at an AA meeting in Santa Clarita, California. Brada’s family intended to make AA be held accountable for the death of Karla, which brought controversy and outrage.
For those who don’t discern or are just unaware of the very structure AA was designed for, this whole incident brought about the question- should AA be held responsible for the criminal actions of individuals?
Attack on AA
Earle and Brada were a couple that met at an AA meeting and the subsequent romantic partnership that took place was between two consenting adults, outside the rooms. However, Brada’s mother insisted that the AA fellowship should be held accountable in the list of those to blame for her daughter’s death.
While the actual killer, Earle, was brought to justice and sentenced to 26 years to life for suffocating Brada to death, the reports also make the clear proclamation the murder took place in the condo the coupled shared. Earle didn’t stalk Brada home from a meeting, the two lived together. Now it can be said court records show Earle had six restraining orders already against him, something that people in AA would not have been privy to, and people close to Earle did claim he frequently relapsed and was prone to violence when drinking.
Still, Brada’s mother stands to say that because Earle’s violent history was safeguarded by AA’s policy of anonymity, he was able to infiltrate the fellowship and prey on vulnerable women. The lawsuit contends AA should be better protecting their members from violent predators such as Earle.
But what Brada’s family seems to be missing is the fact that AA was designed to be anonymous for exactly the purpose of protecting its members… including those who have a rap sheet.
There are some places with a different brand of stricter policies concerning AA, such as the United Kingdom and Australia where a majority of Alcoholics Anonymous has adopted new codes of conduct over a decade ago to prevent exactly this kind of risk behavior. A U.K. AA Conference in 2000 determined that,
“Violence in any form is not acceptable at any level of the structure; our members have the right to feel secure and safe in meetings and whilst going about AA service/business.”
These policies put forth moral imperatives for members to speak out about, and potentially punish or expel violent and abusive behaviors from the fellowship if deemed necessary.
Sure, a code of conduct isn’t a bad thing; in some cases this could surely help protect people who find themselves in harm’s way. Keeping each other accountable can make a huge difference in recovery, but in AA all groups are meant to be autonomous so the individual group conscious must always weigh in on what is best for its members without interfering with AA as a whole. The fellowship has designs for Steps, Traditions, Concepts of World Service and other efforts but these are always in the form of suggestions– not enforced as stringent law.
AA Off the Hook
Brada’s family filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., in 2011 and have been pushing for their idea of fair punishment ever since. Thankfully, this past Tuesday they learned that Alcoholics Anonymous had been dismissed from the list of defendants in the case.
This is on the basis that even though Earle’s deeds are indeed dreadful and disgraceful, several lawyers argued the wrongful death lawsuit was thin to say the very least because AA should not be held responsible for every action of every member- especially since member ship requires no dues, fees, background checks or interviews. Credentials are not required and no one is discriminated against in AA.
In a case like this the couple could have met at a number of institutions such as a church or temple, on a public bus or even Facebook! Suing any of these organizations, including AA, is not a practical argument in a wrongful death lawsuit because it is not the entities responsibility as a whole to police everyone who takes advantage of the opportunity in the wrong way.
It makes no sense to try and place blame on AA for the actions of one man who has a history of violence and harassment. The truth is 12 Step Fellowships are there for people who have struggled with everything from behavioral health and substance abuse to mental health and trauma. To say they should have screened this member for his arrest record or questionable actions prior to meeting Brada would be to promote discrimination within a fellowship created with the purpose of helping anyone who suffers, not just those with a good resume and a clean sleight.
Now if it was a question of AA protecting criminals– AA was founded on spiritual principles of anonymity and disclosure but the literature specifies anonymity to be expected at the personal level, that is to many members’ interpretation- anonymity provides protection for all members from being ‘outed’ as alcoholics. The ‘Understanding Anonymity’ pamphlet never mentions safety from disclosure of a crime.
Part of the tragedy here is that the rooms of AA were created to help this kind of person change their life and find one worth living; a life outside their expectations, and sometimes people don’t see the amazing chance they’ve been offered until it’s far too late.
If you’ve ever been to a 12 step meeting, then you probably can understand the need for anonymity to some extent. What you should not do is let one person undermine an incredible program based on their own inability to take the right action. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135