Here's a lesson in how to take a potentially intriguing idea and beat it to death. Gilliam opens by noting she is not a...


HOW ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS FAILED ME: My Personal Journey to Sobriety Through Self Empowerment

Here's a lesson in how to take a potentially intriguing idea and beat it to death. Gilliam opens by noting she is not a medical expert on addiction, does not have a medical degree, is not an expert on the psychological causes or sociological aspects of addiction, and does not have a psychology degree. Not exactly a trust-inspiring beginning. Indeed, Gilliam's lack of expertise soon becomes apparent. Although she has a perfectly valid premise, that 12-step programs in general and Alcoholics Anonymous in particular, are not right for everyone, she ruins the idea by repeating herself ad nauseam. Just how many times do we need to hear that fear holds us back while love empowers us? Gilliam, who was once addicted to alcohol, cocaine, cigarettes, and bingeing and purging, tried AA off and on for ten years before concluding that its focus on a higher outside power and its insistence that people never actually fully recover from their ""disease"" is a detriment rather than an aid in permanent recovery. She cites the high failure rate--""Seventy percent of those who achieve sobriety in AA relapse within five years"" as part of her proof. The reason, she says, is that AA and other 12-step programs treat the symptoms rather than the emotional and psychological problems actually causing the addictions. It is only by looking inward and learning to view the world with love that true understanding and with it the loss of any cravings can be achieved. The pitfalls inherent in this simplistic approach are obvious. Take this passage on healing yourself with love: "" . . . watch in amazement as all of your relationships become easier, less stressful, and more harmonious as you simply let go of all your fearful, defensive, attacking thoughts toward another and send them thoughts only of love."" The volume concludes with a helpful annotated list of alternative programs, including contact numbers. As an account of one woman'a battle with addiction, this has its virtues. As a general critique of 12-step programs, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 1998


Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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