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A long-time recovery group in Washington, D.C. has been accused of using cult-like tactics to attract and control younger people seeking sobriety and encouraging them to cut off all ties outside the group, according to former members. The Midtown group has hijacked the name of Alcoholics Anonymous, while going against the basic tenets of the program, former members say, and the public controversy has hurt the recovery program in the D.C. area.

In a three-page exposé in Newsweek magazine called "A Struggle Inside AA," reporter Nick Summers interviewed former members of the Midtown group in Washington who described the actions of the group's common practices which were exactly the opposite of what Alcoholics Anonymous literature teaches.

Angry, former members claim the Midtown group is "a coercive, cultlike group that uses the trusted AA name to induce young alcoholics into a radical fringe movement that has little resemblance to traditional AA," Summer wrote.

According to former members interviewed by Summers:

  • The group assigns new members a sponsor, instead of letting the member choose one.

  • The group encourages members to stop all medications prescribed for mental disorders, while Alcoholics Anonymous literature warns against the practice.

  • The group asks members to cut off all ties with friends and family members, having contact only with other group members, while A.A. does not encourage cutting family ties.

  • The group recommends dating within the group only and allegedly encourages young members to have sexual relationships with older members. A.A. discourages beginning any new relationships in early sobriety.

Present members of the group told Summers, "Midtown is a flourishing group that has saved their lives, and that those who criticize it resent their success, have scores to settle or are simply making it all up."

The world headquarters office of A.A. would not comment for Summers' article, since Alcoholics Anonymous has no official spokesperson and no national leaders. Each group is autonomous.

Former members of the Midtown Group have established a MySpace.com page called The Fall of Midtown dedicated to the issue, where they share their experiences with the group.

What's your opinion?
Discuss This Story.

Source: Newsweek: A Struggle Inside AA

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Photo: Clipart.com
Comments
May 2, 2007 at 9:59 am
(1) do it sober says:

This article is not based in fact. The author and one of the people behind the article are long time friends. It is certainly not journalism.

May 2, 2007 at 12:01 pm
(2) Cathy says:

do it sober….you must be a midtown member. this article barely scatches the surface.

May 2, 2007 at 2:37 pm
(3) do it sober says:

Right. I am there. I see what’s happening.

You?

May 4, 2007 at 12:05 pm
(4) Take off the blinders says:

Who’s ever heard of a cult member who admits they are a member of a cult? Obviously none think they are. I hope “do it sober” can one day realize what is happening around her/him and get some real help. More about Midtown, and resources for help are available at Truth About Midtown

May 4, 2007 at 1:30 pm
(5) do it sober says:

Ah yes, the truth. Not anyone’s version. Not what actually happened. The truth. I knew I could find it online!

May 4, 2007 at 5:49 pm
(6) bluesbob says:

Sponsors and groups do not control a persons life. They are their to help a person through the steps and maybe give advice, if asked, about problems one encounters. If a sponsor or group is telling anyone where they can and can’t live, where they can and can’t work, who they can and can’t be friends with or date, whether one takes medication or not, etc., etc., they’ve overstepped their bounds as sponsor and group.

AA, sponsors, home groups, and others are all here to help a person grow up and make THEIR OWN decisions.

That’s it, plain and simple.

May 5, 2007 at 8:22 am
(7) anonymous in wdc says:

Midtown in a nutshell…the resemblance is striking!

http://www.sspx-cult.com/CultCharacteristics.htm .

May 5, 2007 at 3:51 pm
(8) do it sober says:

The problem starts when people put people on a pedestal. People will eventually let you down. Look at the people behind the article here. A few of them were once friends with the people they’re now claiming have raped, them, ruined their lives, etc.

May 6, 2007 at 3:53 pm
(9) Well duh! says:

Yeah, that’s what happens in a cult. People become dependent on the cult and come to regard their fellow members as family. Then they get to know what the leaders are really like… the lucky ones become disillusioned at that point, but more often members are so dependent on the group that they stay anyway, denying or justifying what happened.

May 6, 2007 at 9:46 pm
(10) diane says:

some of these people obviously don’t know what they’re talking about….thank god nick summers took the risk and wrote the article for newsweek and exposed these toxic men who give aa a bad name….they contaminate a beautiful god given solution to a horrible destructive disease….mike q and his cronies are disgusting….i have been sober for seventeen years in the dc area…..for people who are commenting who don’t live in the dc area and/or aren’t in recovery, they really don’t know the effects midtown has had on young women in this vicinity…i have personally sponsored one…people in aa need to stand up and speak the truth and not be afraid of it…if you don’t stand for something you fall…..it’s principles over personalities in aa and midtown runs on personalities not principles….it’s totally backwards there…..

May 6, 2007 at 11:55 pm
(11) do it sober says:

Principles over personalities. OK, I see, Wait, no I don’t. Who’s inventory are you taking here?

May 8, 2007 at 1:33 am
(12) Bad PR says:

do it…your arguments have absolutely ZERO substance, you sound like a 12 yo fighting with a sibling..”I know you are but what am I”…I would think Midtown would at the very least be considering how they should respond to these horrendous stories by using a spokesperson with a little more “substance.” Your comments so far have “little resemblance to traditinal AA” and indicates you, as a Midtown member, have no substantive defense to these allegations – None. The cliches you use on the newcomers won’t cut it on those of us with a few more years.

May 9, 2007 at 1:33 am
(13) Anonymous says:

To the Midtown Member, Do it Sober

With your apparent wisdom, remember to know the difference between what you can control (your actions) and what you can’t (other people, places and things).

Peace to the suffering.

May 9, 2007 at 5:16 pm
(14) Member says:

Live and let live. I have been a member of the Midtown group for many years and have never been told who to date, to get off meds, not to move away,etc. I have never told anyone to stop taking their meds and have actually told people they should continue to take them. I could go on and on as to how these articles and websites lie. I know these people and have been friends with some for some time. I know that they are lying. Contempt proir to investigation will only bar us from spiritual progress. This smear campaign only hurts AA and the still suffering newcomer.

May 10, 2007 at 3:44 pm
(15) Panda Clan says:

I struggle through the week counting on seeing my beloved fellow members. Thank God I know the truth. This too shall pass. All I know is I wanted to be with everyone on Sunday. I just pray for God’s will. I have known bigotry and resentment before. Thank God I can show up and be there for my home group members sober. I am praying a lot. This isn’t fair.

May 11, 2007 at 2:02 am
(16) Johny's Med says:

This was a disgusting article. For those alcoholics who broke their anonymity shame on you. I know all about the relations between Mr. Summers and CFG. You people are nuts, remember your primary purpose (to stay sober, and to help another alcoholic achieve sobriety). Try to remember that truth is a philosophical relative, so that being said perhaps you should recheck your facts. Your life is your responsibility, if your sponsor tells you something that you are unwilling to do, get a new sponsor. That being said, I too am a member of Midtown and was instantly releived when I first arrived. I had been sober for 5 years prior and was tired of going to meetings where I heard the phrase, well at least I didn’t drink. My sponsor has never told me that I couldn’t see my parents, in fact let my brother sleep over at his house for a week. My sponsor has never told me that I couldn’t leave, in fact he has only encouraged me to persue my medical carier. My sponsor has never told me that I couldn’t go to other meetings, in fact I really can’t stand them. My sponsor has never told me that I couldn’t take medications, in fact he told me that if I did he could help me find a sponsor that was also on meds. So as a read this article it has become completely obvious that there is an agenda, and staying sober is not it. Honestly, if the CFG really thought that Midtown was a cult they wouldn’t add to the nostalgia, by creating an undue sense of paranoia. Remember the police investigation yeilded nothing.

May 12, 2007 at 4:07 pm
(17) DC Young People says:

Read the truth about the writers of “Fall of Midtown here on my Myspace page!

http://www.myspace.com/thefallofmidtownliars

May 12, 2007 at 4:45 pm
(18) puhleese says:

People please, what you are saying about Midtown has been said in AA about other groups since the beginning. We are talking about 70+ years of a fellowship of men and women. 70+ years of one alcoholic helping another. If these women feel they were molested, they should have gone to the police. Where were the parents when all of this was going on? You anti-Midtowners are making yourselves out to be a bunch of mindless, spineless drones. If you were stupid enough to stop taking medications that the doctor prescribed, you have no one to blame but yourself. Read the 8th step where it talks about how we are no longer victims. And while you are talking about the cult at Midtown, who have you tried to help? I see a bunch of defects of character run amok in you guys. Get a grip. Get a life. And quit bellyaching. You give people the impressions that Alcoholics Anonymous consists of people not able to make up their own mind. This ain’t Guyana. The last line of the serenity prayer says it quite clearly “the wisdom to know the difference”. We are not a bunch of idiots in AA. We clearly have minds and have come to know right from wrong. And lest you think that this writer has an opinion one way or the other, I am NOT a member of Midtown. I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous who is tired of your bitchy, whiney attitudes!!!!!!

May 13, 2007 at 8:20 pm
(19) Fall of Midtown AKA, The Q. Group says:

We know (http://www.myspace.com/thefallofmidtownliars”) her. She has tried, many, many times, to get us to shut up about The Midtown Cult. It’s “sickgirl”, and she’s mentally sick. We finally had to block her, after telling her that Midtown should be paying her for her efforts. She emailed us COUNTLESS times, telling us that we were hurting A.A., not The Midtown Cult. Let that sink in, just for a moment… Seriously here, who is responsible for the cries of the children in any family? Is it the children’s fault for crying out, after being raped, or is it the elder siblings fault for making the children cry out, after being raped? Here’s the real question, which most of us don’t want to accept: Just how responsible are those siblings that did not engage in these rapes that knew of these violations, but did NOTHING to stop them? Which one, pray tell, are you?

She, as far as we know, isn’t midtown, so why she defends them so readily, we have no idea. To us, she’s not just one of those siblings that not only doesn’t do anything to stop the harm, she’s actually the one sibling that tries to prevents those from stopping the harm, as we are doing now. We just posted a response on “her” blog, on her “anti, Fall of Midtown” Myspace site. It’s my personal response, because I created this page, and her response is be directed at me and I was the one that had to finally block her. In essence, she’s against those who are attempting, at great bodily risk, to expose a current and long lasting Cult, protected by the A.A. Traditions; Traditions that were created by those that never would have seen this level of injustice occur in our Fellowship.

You would be welcome to post something on it too, as her only end is to discredit us, so that our Newcomers harm will continue. You don’t have to have an established friendship first.

May 16, 2007 at 3:03 am
(20) sickgirl says:

Excuse, me, Fall of Midtown AKA Q. Group? Or should I say Jeff? And, may I remind you the reason why your page is called Fall of Midtown AKA The Q. Group instead of the used-to-be “FOM” was my idea so people would not be confused. Did “at great bodily risk” mean you are threatening me? Cause I could care less what you think, but I will not put up with bodily threats. I’ve been hoping in the past two days you would relax and realize that you should probably transpose your anger onto to somebody who is actually guilty of the crimes you have pegged me for. In case you haven’t noticed nobody cares about your sole mission to destroy little old me. The irony is that nobody would have even read the alleged site I did not write if you hadn’t posted it all over the web. Silly you! I find this whole thing really amusing, but it’s horrible that certain people have been harmed in this matter. Why don’t you let it be, so people can go on with their lives and weddings. And, if you threaten me again- 1) I will foward your e-mails to anyone who asks for them, (let’s face it- they make you look so ridiculous) & 2) I will take legal & police action. I promised I would not stoop to your level, and I have more sober things to do with my life anyway. So, don’t make me do it.

May 16, 2007 at 3:04 am
(21) sickgirl says:

Excuse, me, Fall of Midtown AKA Q. Group? Or should I say Jeff? And, may I remind you the reason why your page is called Fall of Midtown AKA The Q. Group instead of the used-to-be “FOM” was my idea so people would not be confused. Did “at great bodily risk” mean you are threatening me? Cause I could care less what you think, but I will not put up with bodily threats. I’ve been hoping in the past two days you would relax and realize that you should probably transpose your anger onto to somebody who is actually guilty of the crimes you have pegged me for. In case you haven’t noticed nobody cares about your sole mission to destroy little old me. The irony is that nobody would have even read the alleged site I did not write if you hadn’t posted it all over the web. Silly you! I find this whole thing really amusing, but it’s horrible that certain people have been harmed in this matter. Why don’t you let it be, so people can go on with their lives and weddings. And, if you threaten me again- 1) I will foward your e-mails to anyone who asks for them, (let’s face it- they make you look so ridiculous) & 2) I will take legal & police action. I promised I would not stoop to your level, and I have more sober things to do with my life anyway. So, don’t make me do it.

May 16, 2007 at 3:21 am
(22) sickgirl says:

By the way, except for my own sickgirl site, I can’t access any of the other sites & e-mails you have chosen for me without the passwords. Care to divulge so I can read what people are writing to me? Midtown paying me off? You’ve said that before in some nasty e-mail. I wish! Then I could retire….

May 17, 2007 at 7:15 pm
(23) agrippa says:

We shall see. Defenders of Mid Town need to practice silence. Perhaps the story will go away. Very few people have any interest in it.

May 18, 2007 at 11:31 am
(24) Take off the blinders says:

Look at comment #19 above and find where “bodily harm” is mentioned. Then look at the reaction of Sickgirl in comment #20. Who in their right mind would interpret
this as a threat?

“In essence, she’s against those who are attempting, at great bodily risk, to expose a current and long lasting Cult…”

Yet she does: “Did “at great bodily risk” mean you are threatening me? Cause I could care less what you think, but I will not put up with bodily threats.”

Honestly, if someone cannot comprehend what they read then they should leave these things be, concentrate on their own recovery, and take some remedial reading courses.

Thus far, there’s been not even a hint of violence or physical threats. Even after the heated debate at WAIA, some of us and people from Midtown were able to talk outside and there was no threatening, no posturing. Let’s learn to read and keep it peaceful!

May 21, 2007 at 7:44 pm
(25) mt says:

3 sides to every story – some where there is truth.
“midtown” has had a bad rap for over 20 years. those who are there today ask where are the ones from 20 years ago?? cant find them can ya?
girls were seduced 20 years ago as they are today. it is just that the girs get younger and the men are older.

it is still sick no mater how you look at it or from who’s side your sitting on.

again – where are MQ’s girls from 20 or 15 or even 10 years ago? ask some elders what happened.

good things do happen to people who stay sober no matter what “group” they are associated with. Bad things also happen but are not discused,
how free are the midtowners to discus a trauma in there life with out being pushed aside or instill a treat to there “happy joyous and free” philosiphy. Step away from the slangs and jargun and ask yourself – how free am I if I can not tell the truth.

I have read so many articles, blogs, etc. and am still amazed how MT or Qs can still quote vers and rime and think that they are some where – or assume they are more sober for quoting the Big Book as priest quote scripture and still molest boys and girls.

lifes lessons are to be experienced in life – not an AA group, cult, or books.

all parties need to get on with it. and those that were truly raped come forward, so the cycle does not continue.

Another thought – what are MQ sponsee’s going to do when he dies? who will be the new leader and petofile? which one of his boys can haddle this kind of bashing.

May 25, 2007 at 12:43 pm
(26) Betst says:

This site sounds like a bunch of people bickering over which sorority is better..quite the contrary! The Midtown Group has been in violation of laws in the US, upheld by our constitution. Which, by the way, has been ammended many times in US history. I have been sober 19 yrs in AA. I personally do not care about the AA traditions being violated, AA as a whole looking bad, or Midtown being exposed. AA is not perfect, it is not the only way to get sober and it is not above US laws. Now some would say..well no one has been arrested. That is true. Considering the crimes at stake, it will take a lot more investigation and detective work. I believe that truth will come out and justice will be done to those who have committed crimes. This may well help AA as a whole to take a look at the traditions and ammend those that need be ammended. For those in AA that want to continue to be in denial about this group and minimize their behavior it is my suggestion that you search within yourselves as to the reason why you are so fearful that this long overdue AA secret has been exposed. AA is not flawless. We have a serious problem here in Washington. I have been cross-examined ,by members in AA, for years about this group when I would try to bring the truth out. My thanks is to the media! Now we have the attention of people all over the world, in and out of AA. Hopefully AA, as a whole, will take action.

May 28, 2007 at 8:40 pm
(27) Fatasahog says:

It is official – you all, including myself, are morons – get a life!

September 20, 2007 at 2:38 pm
(28) Please Help says:

Please send info about Rob K and CFG to libertyflagship@gmail.com.

October 1, 2007 at 3:29 pm
(29) DCC says:

As an AA member with almost 23 years continuous sobriety I was horrified to read of this cultlike Midtown group. But I was highly skeptical. I began talking to people I’ve known in the program for several decades. I quickly found women I knew and trusted who had never mentioned what had happened to them when they’d gone to Midtown. In fact, I had no idea they had ever gone to Midtown.

One woman became quite emotional telling me her story and it was worse than what was published in Newsweek and the front page of the Washington Post. It became obvious to me why she hadn’t mentioned it over the years. I have no doubt her story is true. Other stories I heard are as bad.

Now, many members in the DC area are saying “oh, everybody has known about Midtown since the 80s but General Svcs Office can’t do anything about them”. Apparently they feel that the Traditions of AA prevent them from even mentioning this sickening situation.

The abusive, robotlike responses by Midtowners online are telling as well. They don’t deny anything. They simply spout abuse at anyone who alleges charges.

If you want to see a far more comprehensive discussion of this go to:

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2007/08/aa_renegade_dieswhither_midtow.html

in the Washington Post, which has started following the story.

But continue posting here! When enough people are aware of this, it will go away. Like cockroaches, Midtown cannot stand the light of day.

October 2, 2007 at 10:26 am
(30) Current Member says:

I love AA and Midtown. I hope that they are both here for my children, if I ever have any and if they ever need it!

October 9, 2007 at 3:26 pm
(31) Former Hater says:

I bought the hype. These people with a vendetta are truly lost souls. Of all the groups in the DC area, “Midtown” seems to have more members that are serious about AA between meetings.

Of course, there are many others who fit that bill in other groups and not many are as large, but what I’ve seen at Midtown does not match or even remotely resemble what is described by some of these individuals who are intent on dragging people down instead of doing something constructive.

Be the change you want to see in the world. (Ghandi)

November 25, 2008 at 2:04 pm
(32) Lambkitty says:

Um, why the f*ck are we discussing this in a public forum? I don’t care what group in which any of you chose to stay sober, “THE AA NAME OUGHT NEVER BE BROUGHT INTO PUBLIC CONTROVERSY!!!” Hello? “WE HAVE NO OPINION ON OUTSIDE ISSUES!!!” Hello?

March 14, 2009 at 7:31 am
(33) Orange says:

Lambkitty:
This Midtown Group sexual abuse and sexual exploitation problem became public controversy because the A.A. headquarters refused to deal with it and clean house. They have had 20 years to stop the sexual abuse of minors, and they did nothing. Hiding behind a fake tradition that every group is independent is mere cowardice.

The A.A. headquarters could have easily demanded that the Midtown Group stop using the trademarked name “Alcoholics Anonymous”, and could have sued if the Midtown Group refused to comply. But the A.A. headquarters in New York did nothing. They also did nothing to protect the newcomers from abuse.

So now, by default, it’s a public controversy. That’s what happens when they refuse to clean their side of the street.

October 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm
(34) Anonymous Person says:

If you are new to AA please stay away from Midtown, they are a cult. I know from personal experience in the group. If you are a girl, they will whore your ass. Run don’t walk! WARNING!!!!

October 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm
(35) ThinkThinkThink says:

The midtown group gradually died out and ceased to exist on it’s own, after all the bad publicity, so no longer an issue. We need to work on our fellowship to make sure this never happens again. AA groups should always be self-policing.

January 9, 2010 at 9:06 am
(36) AA does not work says:

AA will always be nothing more than what it is, a social cult. Members at the bottom of this pervented multi-level marketing program pay to have the leaders live the good life. AA is VERY attractive to sexual deviants and preditors, it has and will always be this way. “Alcoholism” is NOT a disease. It is the lie perpetuated to rationalize the terrible things they have done and still do.

September 19, 2010 at 1:25 am
(37) Really? says:

LMFAO at you clowns. Midtown is legit!

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