I have been ranting and raving against Reeducation in a comments thread for two days now. I have had a couple of small illuminations. I have said virtually everything I have to say. I am tired of the topic. After this recapitulation, I am dropping it, although I do not promise never to mention it.
Reeducation took my academic self, which is the strongest and most longstanding piece of me, and smashed it against the wall, again and again, until I was so bloody I could not walk. I then had to use every ounce of intellectual and soul power I could muster up to begin to face the world and walk again. I understand rape and torture victims more deeply than would otherwise be possible because of this. I did not die, fortunately, but convalescence took years, and I resent the theft of my time.
If I had a horse and a lance, I would gladly meet Reeducation in mortal combat. But really, I do not wish to engage the matter again. Life is so much larger, and the world, so wide. There is so much pleasure and joy about and ahead. I understand trading in luxe, calme, et volupté for the sake of illuminating ascetic practices, or in service of humanity and the Revolution. I do not understand trading these in for anything else.
Reeducation was a walk on the dark side. This is Friday, Oxalá‘s day. Look to the light. The best of the Reeducated also do that. I do not know how Reeducation led them to this, but I have seen it; perhaps they are very new souls and needed the information, or perhaps they brought very old souls to it and were able to see beyond the negativity. I am on my own mountain path, where the sages sit and birds rustle in the underbrush.
I apologize to any supporters of Al-Anon who have read my anti-Al-Anon posts, or the comments thread after Nickel Bag, and not enjoyed the experience. It is not my intention to criticize you or the program which gave you peace. This blog is not against you, but it is definitely for me. These are my experiences and opinions only.
My father is an alcoholic and Al-Anon would not believe I did not have all of the problems they felt I should: road rage, a drinking problem of my own, a desire for drama, and so on. I was in denial not to have all those problems: I must only be hiding them. Alternatively, it was arrogance and class privilege which had enabled me to sidestep them. This was cruelty to others on my part. I was refusing to be equal. Everyone with my background has these problems. Who was I to say that, rather than scrape the barrel for problems I had never had, I ought to focus on the ones I actually did? I needed to “get more humble.”
This last in particular was one of the things my father had most screamed at me when drunk. Indeed, there was altogether too much in Al-Anon which replicated life in an alcoholic family and then called this health. You had to toe the family line, and repeat the party line. You were encouraged to drop your old friends, make new friends in Al-Anon, and keep the family secrets, as it were, within the family.
I went to Al-Anon because a therapist I had engaged to learn about and deal with verbal and emotional abuse said I should. What I found there was an alcoholic atmosphere laced with yet more verbal and emotional abuse, and masquerading as a cure and a program for life. The problematic nature of this was exacerbated because the therapist agreed with Al-Anon’s assessment of me. Under my own steam, I would have merely thought it odd and left. I understand that Al-Anon may have saved lives but it almost lost me mine, and I think that for people who are considering going into it, that is just as important to know.
More than ten years later I visited Al-Anon a second time, for different and, I think, more appropriate reasons. The people I found then were quite different, and had a far healthier and less competitive outlook on life than my original group or my therapist. I will give Al-Anon that. I certainly see why a person in crisis who came to a group like that one would be grateful for Al-Anon.
I still have strong disagreements with the 12 step paradigm. From early childhood I have been taught to identify my defects – defects which, although I did not know it at the time, were often not real and not my own – apologize and make amends for them – ask for forgiveness – and hope that they would be removed. In those days I realized I had absolutely no power over anything, and I sat quietly, waiting to see what the people who had power might do.
Outside the house, life was different and more innocent, and I looked to that. When I left the house, I learned to live more happily and innocently, as the vibrant people I had seen were doing. Initially I was concerned that I might not be allowed to do this, an invisible wall might come down and bar me from it, but I met no resistance. It does me no good to return to the old days.
Of course, if I had actually been as arrogant as Al-Anon thought when I first went, I would not have given them the first chance at me. I really did take them seriously as persons, but they called me “arrogant” because I had already moved on from the bad old days. They could not conceive of anyone doing this without them. Like the Yahweh who I can tell from the way they discuss him is their real G-d, they were jealous.
At the same time my therapist thought I was arrogant because I was better educated and more independent than is appropriate in a woman. He had a number of destructive things of his own to say under that rubric. Everything, however, was cloaked in that (I think – it is where I first heard it, anyway) Al-Anon term, denial. All my life I had heard that little successes and joy and happiness were signs of health, but now I learned that they were symptoms of denial, if you had not come from a perfect background – unless, of course, you had begun to exhibit them after spending time in Al-Anon.
Obviously, the fact that I fell victim to verbal and emotional abuse in this way shows that I was right all along: it was that vulnerability I needed help with. I did not need to learn that my happiness was denial and my successes were failures. That was, however, what I learned from Reeducation, and it is what I am unlearning now.
Al-Anon said: because you have X in your past, we know exactly what you are. Any disagreement with what we say, only proves us right. To find that illogical is but a further confirmation of your illness. These rhetorical pirouettes are Guantánamo Bay interrogation techniques. I will never call them good.
Al-Anon people often claim to have been very overbearing in the past, and to have given that up. Many are really nice as individuals and I find it hard to imagine they have ever been that self-righteous or that pushy. I do notice, though, that many who enjoy being sponsors are quite authoritarian, and that the group as a whole can be very overbearing as it cites its ideology and stifles qualification and dissent.