This story sickens me and breaks my heart. One of the great things about AA is its lack of enforced structure, it also leaves it vulnerable to this kind of deviance.
Normally 13th stepping is a one way ticket to loserville. The rest of the community views the person as not working the program and as a predator. Newcomers are typically warned to stay away from him. In this case, it looks like this guy established a cult of personality around himself that insulated him from the typical response.
I’ve seen a handful of groups over the years that seemed to be established to nourish the ego of one member and I’ve seen one CA group that had patterns similar to what was described in the article. Fortunately, all of these groups stayed small and none of them lasted a year. In the case of the worst group, the local recovering community immediately identified the group as “cultish”, warned people to stay away from it, reached out and expressed concern to young members, and confronted the senior members.
Usually the recovering community functions as it should and these kinds of groups tend to fizzle out as quickly as they start. This one seems pretty large and pretty entrenched.
As I said earlier, when a group goes off the rails, other groups and members go out of their way to distance themselves from the group. This situation is made worse by the fact that someone like Clancy weighs in and minimizes these serious problems with statements that sound like a cult apologist who even suggests blame for the victims:
…”there probably have been some excesses, but they have helped more sober alcoholics in Washington than any other group by far.”
Imislund, who speaks frequently to AA groups across the country, said he concluded that if sexual relations between older men and young girls “ever did take place, it’s not taking place now. It had been an issue, but wherever you have a lot of young, neurotic people, they’re going to cling to each other.”
Although Imislund portrayed parents of young people in Midtown as “immensely grateful that this group has managed to get their children sober when no one else could,”…
Let’s hope this group burns out soon and other “elder statesmen” don’t pop out of the woodwork to defend them.