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Unspeakable Crimes

by | Jan 1, 2023 | ComLine, Voices of Recovery

Can adult children who have committed a murder recover in a 12-Step program; or a crime such as rape, being a perpetrator of torture, or being a part of a cover-up for those who have done such acts as these? The short answer is, “Yes.” 

It is important to know that 12-Step programs don’t screen their membership to exclude people who have violated taboos. Most meetings do have guidelines, however, that limit what are appropriate topics to discuss at a meeting, and it is every group’s responsibility to clarify these and to make them known to its members. But, in 12-Step and 12-Tradition programs, Tradition Three means a person is a member of that program if that person wants to be.

I, like others, am a member because I want to make use of the principles that are outlined in the Steps for myself. I may identify with some fellow travelers and others may trigger my traits or bring up my coping mechanisms. I may be prompted to act—to form a new group is one suggested remedy—if there are members who violate my personal standards in ways I do not want to negotiate. But it is important to keep in mind that my first responsibility is to examine myself when I am triggered. Step Six is a prompt to look at my end of it when it comes to rejecting other people’s behavior or other aspects of who they may be. I do not do this to be “nice” to those who offend me. I do it to keep the focus on myself and my own progress in recovery.

A great many taboos have come and gone within various societies. Homosexuality and alternative sexual identities have been and are crimes in some cultures and eras. Incest and rape taboos commonly have shamed not only the perpetrator but the targets of these behaviors as “ruined,” socially exiled forever. Children who have been coerced or groomed into behaviors—including violent, abusive actions as gangs or mobs—generally do qualify for membership within fellowships that focus on using the Steps to recover.

Does this mean that 12-Step recovery may eliminate consequences for having engaged in destructive behaviors? When I—whoever I am, whatever I have done—completely give myself to the care and direction of a Parent/Power Available to Us in 12-Step recovery, I am guaranteed a path to recover from self-hatred, from existing without hope, condemned to shame, to having no useful purpose. Where this path takes me is what is shared in our fellowships. We are already miracles.

Kathleen S

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