Are 12 Step Groups Dangerous?

I was surprised to notice that Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) released an article about the supposed “dangers” of 12 Step programs.

The article starts with the turbulent relationship of two alcoholics who meet in AA. As one might already have inferred by now, that relationship ends tragically.

It further notes that the court system is to blame for many entering 12 Step groups who have no desire to get clean and sober, trying to establish a correlation between the two. It essentially paints these groups as a safe-haven for predators and criminals, all the while failing to realize that predators and criminals can be found anywhere.

Really, of all the places people go during their daily lives, we could do far, far worse than AA. At least in AA, the vast majority of people are attending because of a genuine desire to change their lives for the better. If not, it is not difficult to sign your court card yourself.

Further, while there may be a higher concentration of criminals in 12 Step groups, this is not a reflection of a dangerous place to be. Every place we go, there is always some risk that something could befall an innocent person, but using a bit of common sense, it is not difficult to see who is serious about working a program, and who is just going through the motions.

Besides, all of us are criminals nowadays. One Boston-area civil liberties attorney claims that the average person now unwittingly commits three felonies a day due to the vagueness of current laws.

Although many of the little saying we have in The Program are cheesy, clichéd blurbs that sometimes go in one ear and out the other [ironic], they do still hold value.

One such saying is “stick with the winners.” It means exactly what it sounds like it means. By staying with those who look like they are doing the deal and who have a certain level of respect within the group, the chances of getting sober increase (“You cannot transmit something you haven’t got”) and the likelihood of running into trouble decrease.

Another is that “men stick with the men; women stick with the women.” Again, it is somewhat self-explanatory. When we come in, we are damaged and unhealthy people. After all, why else would we go to a 12 Step program? When each gender stays together, the singleness of purpose (to get clean and sober) is more easily preserved, allowing us to work on ourselves so we can have healthy relationships later on.

Finally, another way to prevent becoming victimized (whether in a 12 Step program or not) is to have a circle of friends who can help accurately determine whether the person in question is good for us or not. As Rodney once told me, “if you are embarrassed or afraid of what your sponsor would say, it probably is not a good idea.”

The truth is that dangers lie all around us, but with a few simple precautions we should be taking anyways, 12 Step groups can be one of the safest places a person has.

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