Concept of the Month -- November 2010

The Criminal's Misuse of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Other Self-Help Groups

At the outset, let me say that I long have been a supporter of A.A. and N.A. and other self-help groups. They provide a path to giving up self-indulgent and destructive behavior -- specific steps and 24 hour support.

Having said that, I would underscore that criminals misuse anything and, virtually, everything -- no matter how noble the purpose. Religion is but one example. I have met offenders who pray in the morning, then go out and commit brutal offenses. They pray to God to be the "get away" car for their crime. They pray to get out of a jam which they have created for themselves. They pray for a judge or jury to render a favorable verdict, for a favorable parole decision, or for divine intervention to assist them in other self-serving and injurious behavior. That which the criminal professes to esteem he also abuses. This could be a wife, a child, a grandparent, a friend or anyone else whom he claims to cherish.

Thus it should not be surprising that some offenders pervert the aims of various self-help groups if it serves their purpose. I have known offenders who want to become sober, drug-free because they will be better able to succeed in committing crimes. Off mind-altering substances, they are more vigilent, better coordinated, and have overall better judgment to execute the particular act they have in mind. More than one has told me he wants to "get the monkey off my back," a phrase synonymous with being drug-free. If he is drug-free, he does not have the hassles of finding a supplier (and all the risks entailed) nor does he have to be concerned with the uncertainties about whether he is being cheated financially or given contaminated substances.

Then there are offenders who believe that if they are drug-free that they have changed totally. The fact is that their basic personality remains the same even if they remain sober.. Well before drugs were part of a criminal's life, he was a controller, a liar, an angry person who had unrealistic expectations of others. Abstinence from mind-altering substances constitutes a critical step on the road to change. But it is not synonymous with enduring basic change. A.A. has phrases that recognize this -- "stinking thinking" and "a dry drunk."

A.A. and N.A. are of tremendous value to offenders who are sincere about becoming responsible human beings. But entering such programs in order to be "better" when it comes to committing heinous offenses is a perversion of all that these programs offer.

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