Huff Post Hit Piece on Alcoholics Anonymous Misses the Mark

THP

by Screedler on March 29, 2012

Huffington Post’s Addiction and Recovery Blog is doing itself no favors by running this article by self proclaimed addiction counselor, Laura Tompkins, a Hazelden Graduate School for Addiction Studies alumni.  The article “Is Alcoholics Anonymous Negativity-Based?” is at best disingenuous with it’s claims and at worst, point’s out either the author’s inability to write coherently or understand some of the most basic things about AA.  Here are some of her AA insights: 

Even if you are announcing that the cookies are running low and you need more money for the bad coffee everyone is swilling, you must announce that you are an alcoholic

Really – I want to know where that one AA meeting you ever went to was?  Ok, maybe it happened that one time.

One of the more positive mantras of AA is “Live and Let Live.” It does not diminish that AA worked for one if it did not work for another. If it worked for you, cheers! If it did not work for another, does that have any relevance on your success? Why the need to force your way onto another? Most of us know the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Methinks the devotees of AA doth protest too much. Perhaps Mr. Bishop has answered his own question as to the most sensitive of us being more prone to addictive behavior. (“Live and Let Live,” remember?)

Do you understand what she is saying here – I don’t.  Is it just me or does the paragraph above make any sense to you?  If there was a point to be made here, it was lost on me.

One of the most common phrases in AA is “Keep Coming Back.” This phrase can produce shame, inferring that they are somehow responsible for the program not working. Those struggling with addictive behaviors are consumed with guilt and shame already.

Wait…all this time I thought “Keep Coming Back” meant – please come back because we enjoyed having you here.  Never felt a tinge of shame when someone said that to me.  Maybe she meant the phrase “It works if you work it”.  But she did not say that.     

 Laura says she felt compelled to write this post after reading Russell Bishop’s article, “Soul-Talk: You Don’t Have to Be an Addict to Recover,”, another Huffposter who is not too keen on AA; she adds -

Mr. Bishop declares that he is not an expert in addiction in a clinical sense. I am an expert, and these are some of my educated and experienced thoughts. 

You would think that someone who was trained by the esteemed Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies would be a little better informed on Alcoholic Anonymous.  If I look in my small recovery library alone , four out of the five 12 step books I have are published by Hazelden.

In closing, I would like to add that I am not the biggest AA supporter out there.  I know it works for some and does not for others, and that every AA group is different.  With that said, it’s free and worth looking at more than one group to see if it will help you.  It helped me and still helps when I go through a rough patch.  But hey, live and let live!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil Manning November 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Like we say in the program, Ms Tomkins, if you don’t like what we offer, after 90 days we will be happy to refund your patients’ misery.

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Born Broken July 2, 2013 at 12:48 am

Huff Post hit piece: I can’t believe what I read but I did, especially since it came from a supposedly Certified Addiction Specialist ( Laura Tompkins) from Hazelden Fame. To my knowledge and I have been involved in Alcoholics Anonymous for over thirty-four (34) years, this woman Laura doesn’t have a clue at what she is saying. I know of no one that has been forced to go to any AA meetings, let alone forced to keep going. Unlike Hazelden Recovery AA doesn’t charge any money to help an alcoholic, I wonder what Hazelden going rates are? 15 or 20 thousand dollars a week? She talks about how great their success rate is, I would love for her to prove that to us. The bottom line is real simple, most Alcoholics and Drug Addictive will die from their disease. I don’t care where they go for help, because most of these people Don’ttttt want to quit. I hope Hazelden takes a hit by Lauras article, since they put her out there to be a spokesperson for them. I have to wonder how many lives this Certified Specialist has ruined and destroyed?

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susan October 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I find it rather interesting that a person with a 12 month course certification often refers to herself as an “expert”. She doesn’t have enough experience for that, IMO. She’s been in the field for a couple of years, I understand. I also gather that she has been sober for 7 years and says she did it with “love”. Too funny.

AA isn’t for everyone, and support groups might not be, either. Still, I find those who write these hack pieces really don’t offer real solutions. Most of the recommendations given are “new” methods that have been created by some disgruntled former AA that went out and created a new one based on what they liked from the program.

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Screedler October 14, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Thanks for the comment Susan – I concur!

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djh September 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm

well it was just a flat hack piece, whether it is right or wrong in its content is a bit beside the point.

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stepsherpa April 22, 2012 at 10:31 am

You have to admit she makes herself look like a real problem child, she obviously needs help….Makes you understand why anyone calling themselves a professional puts an emphasis on (self admitted). It would be a riot to read her experience with say “anonymity” after crucifying Hazelden with her shameful selfish association but that’s not fair, I don’t think she has any idea what she’s saying…..

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The Sober Lawyer March 30, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I went to Hazelden for its 30 days program. There are signs greeting you on the drive in with all the AA slogans. The program would be mortified about this graduate’s ill-informed opinion.

She simply doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I doubt she’s ever been to an AA meeting. This is all coming hearsay by “disgruntled” patients.

She repeats some of the same tired arguments about The Program and offers some truly frightening advice as well — that some alcoholics may indeed be able to drink in safe moderation under the careful guidance of a — you guessed it — a certified addiction specialist such as herself. This is Rational Recovery meets Smart Recovery with a sprinkle of Stupidity. Ms. Tompkins wants to cuddle with all her addict patients with warm and fuzzy hugs and shelter them from all the destruction they have wrought on themselves and their loved ones, lest they be overwhelmed with all this negativity… What a joke…

Anyways, I too wrote about this on my blog: http://www.soberlawyer.com/2012/03/30/huff-post-therapist-doesnt-know-diddly-about-alcoholic-anonymous/

Take care, Dick

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Paul Garrigan March 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I agree with you. I don’t believe that Alcoholics Anonymous is a good option for everyone, and it is vital that other recovery solutions get to share some of the spotlight. It is dangerous to keep pointing people back to AA when this solution is obviously not working for them. On the other hand, these ‘hatchet job’ attacks on the program are not helpful. It disturbs me that we can’t seem to be able to get beyond ‘black and white’ thinking where things are either right or wrong. Just because AA doesn’t work for everyone should not mean that it deserves to be ridiculed with what amounts to exaggerations and lies.

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Clara March 31, 2012 at 11:05 am

AA itself has said from the beginning that it isn’t for everyone. There are many options out there and I look at everything that is available because while I had a wodnerful AA experience in Myrtle Beach, I can’t say that for west Texas. What I have discovered about these “options” is that just about every one has found its roots in AA. Just another group with a twist on the steps, traditions and principles started by someone that took what they loved about AA and left the rest. But the problem is availability. While it is easy to argue that there should be options for anyone, the reality is that these people that yell that the loudest are just bloggers with no real interest in actually providing options. Each one should be setting up whatever option they advocate. SMART has just over 300 meetings in this country since it began in 1992, and SOS has something like 5 meetings in LA and quote something like 20,000 worldwide members despite 27 years in existence.

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Paul Garrigan March 31, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I don’t believe that the answer is necessarily more support groups. My solution was to stop being an alcoholic. Drinking is simply just something that I don’t do anymore. I would never claim that this approach is going to work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me. I’m a blogger, and I like to share my experience of escaping addiction. I don’t prescribe solutions because I don’t believe that there is one solution. I can only talk about what worked for me.

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