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Review of "Powerfully Recovered!"

By Anne Wayman, 2001
Review by Fred Ashmore on Mar 6th 2003
Powerfully Recovered!

I struggled, really I did, to read all this book.  I don’t know why, because the subject is one I should find interesting.  I decided to quit a 12 Step fellowship a couple of years ago (a good move), and Anne Wayman’s book addresses a middle way of recovering personal power without quitting 12 Step Fellowship.

What’s it about?  Anne Wayman challenges two basic ideas that are very prevalent in 12 Step groups, that of powerlessness and that of life long recovery.  Let’s be clear, I whole-heartedly agree with her on both fronts.  She explains, drawing on personal experience and analysis of the main 12 Step sources, why she takes this stance.  People do have the power to change themselves; and they do graduate and get on with life without needing to be monitored and attend meetings for ever and ever.  Well said!  This theme is explored through the various stages of the 12 Step program, with Wayman setting our her ideas on the value (or not) of many widespread practices such as repeated 4th and 5th Steps, anonymity, and becoming group oriented rather than life oriented.

But I didn’t like the book much.  I found it excessively focussed on ideas originating in 12 Step literature.  To read it, you would say that Anne Wayman has never considered examining other approaches to self-realisation and recovery, and her list of references supports this view.  There is a world of non-12 Step writing ideas, analysis, research and facts about addictive behaviour that is just ignored.  The assaults on 12 Step myths build on unsupported statements (just like most of the myths) rather than proper sources. 

I also disliked the general style of the writing which has a wearisome resemblance to AA literature with its 12 Step jargon, folksiness and attempted analysis with neither rigour or scholarship.  I recall reading Chas Bufe’s infinitely more effective Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?   That book was a treat, even if I found it profoundly unsettling at the time – a scholarly, careful, thoughtful demolition job with every step of the argument set out and supported by references.  Anne Wayman’s book is – not a treat.

Who’s it for? I would say, the target audience is 12 Step people who want a different take on what the Program offers.  You’d have to be pretty deep in already to understand it.

Would I buy this book if I’d seen it on a bookstall?   Not if I dipped into it first, and if I did buy it in a fit of absent-mindedness, it would go to the yard sale pretty darn quick.


© 2002 Fred Ashmore

Fred Ashmore is a member of the public with a strong interest in drugs, drink and addiction and how people recover from them. He is active as a meeting host for the SMART Recovery® program, which offers help for people who seek to modify harmful and addictive behavior.