The first time I walked into an AA meeting, I knew I was in the right place. It was a small women's meeting on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I was then living, and what I found entranced me: Attractive, successful, articulate women talking--and laughing!--about the sort of things that had brought me close to hopelessness.
That was 16 years ago. Or 17. I've sort of lost track at this point, but one way or another, AA has kept me sober for a good many years. Since then, I've attended hundreds, maybe thousands, of meetings of all shapes and sizes. I've met homeless people and celebrities--people of diverse races, ages, sexes, and sexual orientations, and pretty much any other demographic box that you'd care to check. I've written (and published) two novels, drafted speeches for the dean of Harvard Law School (now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice), and accomplished many other fulfilling and challenging goals. I can't imagine having done these things without first getting sober, and I can't imagine having gotten sober without AA.
All of which goes to explain my profound uneasiness with the depiction of AA in Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink--and How They Can Regain Control, a new book by journalist Gabrielle Glaser that was recently excerpted in the Wall Street Journal and appears to be selling briskly. (As of this writing, it ranks #454 on Amazon.) As Glaser--a self-proclaimed non-alcoholic who attended "about 10 meetings" in the course of researching her book--portrays it, AA is a cult-like faith-based organization rife with sexism, a hotbed of misogyny that serves as a veritable playground for dangerous and sometimes violent sexual predators. In the rooms of Glaser's AA, it is "common" for vulnerable women to be preyed upon by men "who are purporting to help them heal." In support of such claims, she invokes a notorious Washington, D.C., AA group featured in 2007 pieces in Newsweek and the Washington Post, the infiltration of AA phone help lines in Britain by sexual predators, and the 2010 murder of a woman and her daughter by a troubled Iraqi veteran she'd dated after meeting him in AA, which he'd been court-ordered to attend.