Step 9: A Personal Pity Party Sponsored by Abusers Anonymous

Back in the news is the story of a sexual assault involving real estate agent and rapist William Beebe, who is doing time for sexually assaulting Liz Seccuro of Greenwich, Connecticut, at a Phi Kappa Psi party at the University of Virginia in 1984.

Beebe, an alcoholic, admitted to the crime when he wrote a letter to Seccuro as part of his 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous recovery process. Step 9 of this program calls on alcoholics to make amends for the harm they have caused others. One way for the recovering drunk to do this, AA suggests, is to write letters of apology to the persons they have harmed. Though Beebe said he was sorry he hurt Seccuro, he just can't bring himself to help bring to justice the others who also raped her that night.

Beebe's behavior points to the fundamental flaw of Step 9. It's all about the abusive drunk and what he wants for himself as the center of his own private universe. It has nothing at all to do with healing relationships.

Imagine sitting down to write a letter of apology for having raped someone. Imagine doing that for you, so you can feel better about yourself, so you can recover from your so-called disease, so you can get on with your life. It's all about you, you, you.

Does the alcoholic stop to think what it might be to receive such a letter out of the clear blue? To have dealt in secret with that abuse and moved on to shape a life only for the fiend who harmed you to ambush you by throwing it all back in your face at a time that suits him and only him? You are again being bullied. You're being required to be a witness to the egocentric exhibition of false contrition. Such letters have nothing to do with atoning for past offences but in rehabilitating one's self-image for one's own sake.

Beebe's situation is clearly about himself. Otherwise, he might provide some useful information to authorities trying to come up with enough evidence to arrest the others who were involved. He might make himself useful. It does no good to be sorry so long as you don't have to take responsibility for your actions. He might simply have turned himself in to the law rather than trouble her. Such a sincere act might have convinced her and the rest of us of his desire to change rather than to bat around an old victim as if he were a cat and she, a ball of string.

It seems that alcoholics, or addicts of any kind, suffer from enlarged egos. To derive a sense of importance first by harming others and then by expressing regret for that pain is to suffer with a sick ego. Deal with yourself first by realizing that when you and your power to inflict pain disappeared, you were, indeed, irrelevant to your victims. Live with your own irrelevance and realize life is better without the pain you cause, even without you. Remake yourself from there. Save everyone the trouble and boredom of watching you recreate an idea of yourself that never really existed in the first place.

Better than any self-aggrandizing speeches pretending to be apologies is
silence. In silence can be found God, peace, and healing.


  1. Anonymous8:42 PM

    Your post is in line with my thoughts, few people apologize because they are truly sorry. An apology is for their benefit, "I've said the words, I feel better now" or what will I gain from this.

  2. Nellie, I think people are sorry are willing to listen to the person they have hurt, to hear what pain they have caused. They can't know, otherwise. A well-intentioned friend will do that; a sick egomaniac will write speeches and mail them at her convenience.


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