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She kept this a secret, riddled with guilt that her immigrant parents had sacrificed so much for her middle-class comfort: her airy, childhood ranch home had a pool, cedars that pierced the California sky and hummingbirds that buzzed in the garden.

She also kept another secret from her family: Sometimes she abused prescription pills and drank too much.

(When telling often-harrowing stories of their alcoholism, the recovering drinkers introduce themselves only by their first names.) Forced attendance seems at odds with the original traditions of the organization, which state that the “only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” So far, AA has declined to caution members about potentially dangerous peers or to create separate meetings for convicted criminals.

“We do not discriminate against any prospective AA member, even if he or she comes to us under pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency,” the public information officer at New York’s central office wrote in a June email.

Others are felons whose records include sexual offenses and domestic violence and who choose AA over longer prison sentences.

They mingle with AA’s traditional clientele, ordinary citizens who are voluntarily seeking help with their drinking problems from a group whose main tenets is anonymity.

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Court records show that Eric Allen Earle repeatedly relapsed and turned violent when drunk, lashing out at family members, his ex-wife and people close to him.

Stout has been an outspoken critic of what she views as the medical and judicial overreliance on AA and its offshoots.

Internal AA documents show that when questioned about the sexual abuse of young women by other members, the organization’s leadership decided in 2009 that it could not do anything to screen potential members.

Each year, the legal system coerces more than 150,000 people to join AA, according to AA’s own membership surveys.

Many are drunken drivers ordered to attend a few months of meetings.


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