I hadn’t even been aware of Natalie Reed until we joined Freethought Blogs at the same time, but now I’ve started reading her and seriously, this woman is amazing. Here she is talking about her experiences with 12-step programs:
My actual direct personal experiences with 12 Step Groups didn’t help, either. My first encounter with them ended up leaving an extremely bad taste in my mouth. At the time, I had recently attempted to take my own life, and ended up in Vancouver General Hospital’s psychiatric unit. After a week in the scary, soul-destroying, high-security, intensely boring assessment unit, I was deemed relatively stable and taken to the Brief Intervention Unit. In the BIU, one was permitted to take short ten minute cigarette breaks. Trouble was, I had no cigarettes. I needed to get to my bank and then to a shop where I could buy some, but for such a trip I’d need a chaperone.
So it was arranged that the 12 Step Volunteer would be my chaperone to pick up some cigarettes. I made it very, very explicit, however, that I was atheist and decidedly NOT interested in 12 Step. I stated that I was open to any other addiction recovery programs (provided they were secular in nature), but 12 Step was off the table. They agreed, that’s fine, he’d just be a chaperone and maybe discuss options and alternatives.
I spent the whole day excited for it… finally got to change out of the hospital pajamas and into my actual clothes. Was overjoyed at the prospect of going outside again, and enjoying the sunlight and Spring air. When the appointed time came around, he didn’t show, and a replacement showed up instead. He offered to chaperone me instead. So I signed out, and we began walking down the hall, and he lead me around the corner to a room where he began arranging chairs in a circle.
After a few confused moment, I became curious as to what was going on, asked what’s up, and reminded him I only had a limited amount of time before I had to be back. “Oh, we have to have our meeting first” … “what meeting?” … “Alcholics Anonymous” … “Um… I explicitly stated that I was not going to be attending any 12 Step meetings, and was told that this was merely a chaperone trip so I could pick up some cash and some cigarettes, and get outside for an hour or so” … “Yeah, we can do that, but first we have to have the meeting” … “I said 12 Step was off the table. I’m an atheist. I’m not interested” … “You should see what it’s like first before you go ahead and dismiss it. I’ve seen your type, think you know everything.” … “I’ll wait outside” … “No meeting, no trip, no cigarettes”… “Oh? Well fine then” (thanks for the trip all the way down the hallway, asshole)
So I left. It was very, very hard to do so, as even leaving aside the issue of my nicotine addiction this was to have been my first trip outside in eight days, and I had to sacrifice it. But my principles were my principles, and I knew damn well when I was being manipulated. In this case, blatantly manipulated. Like, outright presented-an-ultimatum manipulated. The kind of story you tell kids to demonstrate how emotional manipulation is a kind of fucked-up thing to do to someone. He was actively using another addiction, and my position of vulnerability and dependence, to coerce me into attending an organization I had explicitly stated my religious objection to.
Is it too early to start making nominations for 2012 Atheist of the Year?