Thank God That Lawsuit Against AA Was Tossed Out

Thank God That Lawsuit Against AA Was Tossed Out

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Alcoholics Anonymous

This post was originally published on January 27, 2016.

Remember the lawsuit that was a central part of the anti-AA doc The 13th Step, where a family was suing Alcoholics Anonymous for its alleged role in the death of their daughter? It was a tragic case—Karla Brada, a Santa Clarita woman on the seemingly right track, was fatally suffocated by a boyfriend she met in program. It was awful, but it wasn’t AA’s fault, which is why I was relieved to learn that Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit. Though it makes no sense that an organization like AA could be blamed for anything, let alone two adults meeting and deciding to date, more nonsensical cases have been entertained by the courts so it’s consoling to know that the sacred and simple structure of 12-step programs has been protected.

Can’t Blame Them for Trying

I don’t blame the victim’s parents, Hector and Jaroslava Mendez, for filing the suit. They lost their child and it’s natural to want as many people as possible to pay. And they were lucky in the sense that the person responsible for their daughter’s murder, Eric Earl, was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison. That is justice. But I imagine it got quite confusing for them, as there are passionate anti-12 steppers out there who are thirsty for a case like this to forward their own agenda. I am sure that Mr. and Mrs. Mendez received more than enough validation and support to feel like what they were doing was right.

But this isn’t about right or wrong; it’s about a lack of understanding of what AA actually is. I don’t expect anyone who isn’t a member of a 12-step program to comprehend how they work as there really isn’t much out there like it. The mistake made by the Mendez family was their inaccurate conception of AA as an organization with policies that are enforced. The administrative arm of Alcoholics Anonymous has little to do with the program and nothing to do with the meetings. There is no policing of the traditions in an individual meeting, other than someone calling the police if a person there is breaking the law.

What a 12-Step Group Actually Is

Twelve-step meetings are essentially just slightly more organized than hiking groups posted on Meetup.com. It’s just a bunch of people with a common interest (a desire to stop drinking) who feel that getting together with like-minded individuals will help them. While I am sure that Meetup as an organization has policies and procedures, users and groups on the site are autonomous, self-regulating, and if applicable, self-supporting. If someone were to get murdered by another Meetup member they met in their hiking group, it would be ludicrous to hold the company responsible.

We all know that anyone can create an account on Meetup and there is no individual screening process. They don’t ask for your social security number or if you have a criminal record, so there is no expectation of security. However, one way in which online groups like Meetup do differ from 12-step is that they take names (don’t have to be real ones), email addresses (that could also be fake) and some other personal info. So if someone got hurt by another member, this could be a lead in tracking down a suspect. But it doesn’t put any member of Meetup in a safer position, as they know just as little about the people they are hiking with as members of AA know about who is sitting next to them at a meeting.

The fact is this: AA is a place were anyone with a desire to stop drinking can go to get help. There is no discrimination of gender, religion, race, sexual identity, financial status, marital status or criminal status. You can be a woman beater, a fugitive, even high on crack and attend a meeting as all those factors are considered outside issues. And while the only requirement for membership (an evasive concept that is self-determined and self-regulated) is a desire to stop drinking, many don’t know that anyone can attend an open meeting.

What You Are Responsible For

While there have been murders in AA—or rather between people who met in meetings—Eric Earl isn’t a killer because he is an alcoholic. Being murderous is not a trait of alcoholism. Karla Brada isn’t dead because she was an alcoholic. Dating criminals is not a trait of alcoholism (although I know some women who might beg to differ). She is dead because she is a victim of a man she was wrong about, as many of us have been in one way or another, and as a result she met an unfortunate, tragic and unfair fate.

My continued condolences go out to Brada’s friends and family.

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5 Comments

  1. Joseph Kearney on

    The reason the court case was rightfully tossed out is in the group’s name…the second word in its name.

    Anyone there can give as much, or as little information about themselves as they want. The organization is NOT responsible for warning attendees that “there may be unspecified criminals among you.”

    The unwritten 13th Step of that group is “DON’T date within the rooms, because two addicts together stacks twice the odds against recovery.

    Brada had been assaulted by Eric Earle within a month of her death…and dropped the charges.

    Sadly, her own reckless, irresponsibility played the major part in her own death.

  2. The point you fail to see, which was the substance of the case against AA, is that AA is in cahoots with law-enforcement and courts, nationally, to have criminals court-ordered to attend AA; that is to say: the court system is funneling bad people towards innocent people, without any warning.
    If you had an ounce of credibility, or if you were less willfully blinded by the AA cult, you would see this.

    • Joseph Kearney on

      The reason the court case was rightfully tossed out is in the group’s name…the second word in its name.

      Anyone there can give as much, or as little information about themselves as they want. The organization is NOT responsible for warning attendees that “there may be unspecified criminals among you.”

      The unwritten 13th Step of that group is “DON’T date within the rooms, because two addicts together stacks twice the odds against recovery.

      Brada had been assaulted by Eric Earle within a month of her death…and dropped the charges.

      Sadly, her own reckless, irresponsibility played the major part in her own death.

  3. So there’s a few things I’d like to address about this editorial:

    You refer to the steps as being “sacred”. Definition: connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. So is AA a religious organization or not considering that it treats in unchanging ways as dogma?

    “I don’t expect anyone who isn’t a member of a 12-step program to comprehend how they work as there really isn’t much out there like it.” So you just wrote off the valid opinions and experiences of 7.440 BILLION people who aren’t part of the estimated 2 MILLION members of AA. Thats a pretty bold statement. That and it just makes proving your case so much more condescending and irrational along the lines of “Oh, you’d never understand because you’re not ONE OF US.” Ridiculous.

    “There is no policing of the traditions in an individual meeting, other than someone calling the police if a person there is breaking the law.” People are often discourage to involve the authorities with issues arising from a group of AA. I’ve seen this for myself in AA meetings. I’m not stating that there aren’t groups that look out for the well being of their members and do involve the authorities but there is a very dangerous culture of “we don’t involve outsiders” that some how has been interrupted by many members of AA that they are part of some clandestine society that can handle all of its issues autonomously when in reality most of these issues just get swept under the rug.

    Your comparison to Meetup is hilarious. Criminals aren’t mandated by the court systems to attend Meetups however they continue to be mandated to attend AA meetings (even though, matter of fact that has been ruled unconstitutional and illegal however judges still continue this practice). I could go into more detail about how your comparison is horrible but I think the above fact pretty much does the trick.

    This is kind of besides the point but “Being murderous is not a trait of alcoholism”. Here’s a pretty good article about how alcohol is linked to more homicides in US than any other substance:

    http://www.nhregister.com/connecticut/article/Alcohol-linked-to-more-homicides-in-US-than-any-11378638.php

    Of course, like she states in the article correlation doesn’t equate to causation but to say that murder is not a trait of alcoholism would be burying your head in the sand so you don’t have to admit to the mounds of data (and sadly mounds of dead bodies including Karla’s) that prove otherwise.

    To finish I’m going to get a little angry because: “She is dead because she is a victim of a man she was wrong about.” This is some of the most disgusting victim blaming I’ve witnessed in regards to her murder. If you truly cared about the future of AA, Karla, her family and women like her you wouldn’t be saying such things. Lets hope your never WRONG about anything. (well, this editorial kind of proved that point).

    On subjects of dire straits you may want to keep your “strong and typically uninformed opinions” to yourself.

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Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.