It’s nearly impossible these day to look at on-line groups and not see that “trauma” is the newest “cause” of self-medication. This isn’t exactly news to any of us who have worked with PTSD suffering veterans, rape and molestation victims, surviving spouses, or any number of other conditions.

What is unusual is for someone to look at, much less study, why some people succumb and others don’t.

30 years ago I did a little work with Dr. Norman Garmezy of the University of Minnesota whose area of interest was “Invulnerable Children.” He was interested in why childhood trauma had disastrous consequences for some children and none for others, even, in a few cases, having benefits.

At the time I was looking at Vietnam Vets suffering PTSD related self-medication at the Minneapolis VA.


There are all kinds of trauma and all sorts of responses. Who handles it well? Who doesn’t? Why?

Dr. Garmazy noted that calling the unaffected “invulnerable” had been an error. That it was in fact the hyper-vulnerable – the resilient – who coped the best, some of whom even derived benefits from the experience.

The point to this digression is that there are no “one-size-fits-all” antecedent conditions any more than there are magic bullet cures.

Your particular mosaic of causes and effects do not perfectly align with anyone else’s unless you to choose to make them. If you do, then conformity will serve you well.

If you prefer to be yourself, as Oscar Wilde recommended because “everyone else is taken,” then I suggest you tease out “your solution,” with or without help.

And if you are someone who has been resilient, you can be again, and conformity probably isn’t going to work for you but, will, become yet another form of trauma. Had enough of that? I thought so.

Outgrowing the Steps

It seems worth repeating that alcohol isn’t just a depressant – it’s also a “regressant.” That means that drinking causes our behaviors to become ever more immature.

Now suppose you are a person in your 40’s who is drinking a lot. Depending on various factors your self-medication may have regressed you to the point where your behaviors match those of a typical, successful, Stepper.
Then you stop drinking by joining AA.

However, when you stop drinking, you also lose the regressive “benefit” and begin bobbing back up to your actual levels of emotional and psychological maturity. You will, most likely, literally “outgrow” AA.

At this point you will have a number of choices:

  • Go back to drinking to keep yourself functioning at a Stepper level;
  • Say “thank you” and exit AA and go on to a normal life;
  • Succumb to the brainwashing and live in a stage of continuous anxiety because you half-believe the “leave and you’ll die” myth;
  • Throw yourself into “sponsoring” new members and responsibly taking care of the logistics of holding meeting and recruiting new members.

Different people obviously make different choices and I don’t care, either personally or professionally, which one you make, unless it’s the “continue drinking to fit in option.” Whatever you decide that works with you, and keeps you from driving drunk work for me.

I have been doing this work and the associated research for over 30 years. I have watched people make all of the different choices. I’ve gotten calls and letters and emails from people who have made each of these choices and from those who bounced around between the options.

Again, if you decide that what works for you is being a “conscientious” AA member, then do it, remembering that being conscientious means informing people who are considering AA that the “success” rate is about 5%, that there are many other options that may work better, and that they need to be on guard because the predators, both court-ordered and self-interested, have found AA to be an excellent source of victims.

If you are going to be a “sponsor” figure, do not shirk your protective responsibilities.

And if, and when, you leave, just do so. Quietly and without drama and fanfare. Just get a life and put AA, like self-medication, behind you.