Two months ago, a guy in North Carolina became suicidal after getting liquored up at his home. The situation escalated after police and the man’s AA sponsor arrived, and ended with the guy laying dead on the ground with a bullet hole through his chest. Yesterday the autopsy results were released, which showed that this guy’s blood alcohol content was above the lethal amount. He should have already been dead by the time the deputies arrived, but somehow he was still able to function. Here is an article about the incident.

The fact that this guy is now dead is obviously a tragic consequence, but looking further into this story reveals other failures, as well. Toward the end of the article, the reporter cites some previous arrests of this victim – including DUI, public intoxication, assault on a female and carrying a concealed weapon. These are not all of this guy’s convictions or arrests. There were two additional arrests for impaired driving, one resulting in a conviction (1990), and the other in a suspended sentence (1997). In four of these cases, he was compelled to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

This is an example of how AA is not a benign organization. This man is a victim of AA in two ways. One is their failure as a program for sobriety, and the other is in how AA conducts itself in relation to our court systems. This man had obvious psychological problems that extend beyond alcoholism. Problems that AA is ill-equipped to handle, and are actually more likely to exacerbate. A sponsor who is untrained in counseling, and who is very likely to be unbalanced himself — coupled with the collective idea that medication is poison, becomes a toxic mix for a person with psychological problems. Treating this man’s anger – which was likely the result of a chemical imbalance in his brain – with shame, resentment lists, suppression of his feelings and divine intervention; instead of with real psychological help, is the standard AA approach. An AA slogan is often said, but never applied, comes to mind. This guy needed a “check-up from the neck up”. What he got instead was a religious program that fails almost everyone who walks through the door. A program that had already failed him multiple times. AA is not required to accept anyone as part of a court mandate. I wish they wouldn’t have accepted this guy, and would have instead forced the court to find other methods of treatment – real, psychological treatment that someone who is mentally ill deserves. Maybe this tragedy could have been avoided.

I wanted to write about this case, because I wanted to isolate a specific example of how AA costs everyone, beyond the most obvious thing, and that is loss of life. There is a cost AA’s high failure rate. Putting an exact dollar figure is impossible. Factor in the hourly rate of those involved in the multiple arrests, court appearances, jailhouse stays and legal fees for this person — and it will give you some idea of what the costs are to you and me in terms of tax dollars. Multiply this by tens of thousands of cases, and you begin to get an idea of how this impacts everyone. It does not matter that an AA chapter passes around a collection plate, and accepts no outside contributions. That is not what costs you and me. We lose out from AA’s failure, and their inability to accept the idea that they are not a solution to almost every new member, or in this case, returning member.