Killing of 12-step (Narcotics Anonymous) program sponsor raised fears

FRIENDS SAY MAN ARRESTED IN MURDER HAD BEEN sponsored BY THE VICTIM – He was and is NOT A COUNSELOR. NO ONE IN AA IS A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL. AA HAS NO TRAINED FACILITATORS AT ALL!

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013
  • Charles Michael Middleton

The man accused of killing Charles Middleton at his south Charlotte home Saturday morning was a man he’d sponsored while involved in a Narcotics Anonymous program years ago, people close to the situation say.

On Monday, Christopher Paul Huffman was taken into custody in Casa Grande, Ariz., more than 2,000 miles from the scene of the shooting on Elmhurst Road in the Sedgefield neighborhood adjacent to Dilworth.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg homicide detectives traveled to Arizona on Monday to interview Huffman, who had no criminal record. Police have not divulged a possible motive in the killing or said whether Middleton’s sponsorship work with Huffman made him a target.

It’s unclear how many people Middleton sponsored in his two decades with 12-step programs in Charlotte. He was one of the longest-tenured members of his weekly meeting group, which was made up of gay men who are also recovering addicts, friends said.

Middleton took leadership roles and engaged other members, chatting over coffee before the meetings or at dinner afterward. He asked people to call him “Mike,” an abbreviation of his middle name. He freely doled out his cell phone number, friends said.

He was semi-retired but still worked part time in credit and collections. He doted on his two cats and had also recently started taking theater appreciation classes at Central Piedmont Community College. Middleton and his friends regularly bought season tickets to plays at the college.

Details of the interactions between Middleton and Huffman were still hazy on Wednesday. Two people who knew Middleton – both of whom asked for anonymity – say the two men met at a 12-step meeting about four years ago. At some point, Huffman asked Middleton to sponsor him. For a while in 2008, they both lived a few doors down from each other on Ardmore Road in Sedgefield.

But their interactions over the next four years are unclear.

“We don’t know why and we don’t know the story behind what happened,” said a Narcotics Anonymous member. “We do know Mike has sponsored and helped a lot of people. … He’d extend his hand to a total stranger at times.”

But for some people involved in local 12-step programs, the link reminded them of the need for caution in dealing with troubled addicts. “It is almost a sacred thing. These are people who so freely give of themselves,” said a Narcotics Anonymous member who declined to give his name because the association frowns on speaking to the press. “How do they know that the people who we are trying to help are not going to do us harm?”

For recovering addicts, sponsorship is a complicated, but close relationship. A sponsor helps a person navigate some of the harder steps of recovery: making amends to people who’ve been harmed, conducting what Narcotics Anonymous calls “a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves,” and sharing a story of addiction with others.

But members say there are few solid rules about sponsorship in the global organization, which says it holds 61,800 weekly meetings in 129 countries. While members encourage frankness on the path to recovery, the organization is often tight-lipped with outsiders and the media about the details of sponsorship.

In a three-page pamphlet on sponsorship, the Narcotics Anonymous organization recommends frequent communication, and discourages romantic entanglements. But it’s unclear if the organization offers sponsors advice on how to protect themselves from the ill effects of another person’s addiction.

A person who answered the phone at the Metrolina Intergroup Association, a conglomeration of recovery groups in the Charlotte area, declined to comment about the relationship between Middleton and Huffman or sponsorship relationships generally.

“We have a tradition that we maintain our anonymity at the press level,” the woman said. Public relations officials with the national Narcotics Anonymous office in Van Nuys, Calif., did not return calls seeking comment.

One recovering addict in Charlotte said members are especially wary at open meetings, which involve people from all walks of life and often from unknown backgrounds.

“We’re not supposed to judge, but this is the real world,” she said. “If somebody’s making me feel uncomfortable, either I’m going to say something or I’m going or leave.”

She said there aren’t many written rules about sponsorships, but experienced sponsors encourage people to be cautious.

“It really has to be a gut instinct and you say to yourself that you’re not going to have them come to your house, you’ll meet them at Starbucks, some place public. It’s a huge deal, because people just come in off the street. We have people from jails, institutions.”

William White, a Florida researcher who’s written about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs, said it’s unlikely that one incident will spark widespread change.

“Anytime something like this breaks publicly, there’s a period of soul searching in organizations like this in general,” White said. “Safety is not an issue that comes up across the board except in the aftermath.”

STAFF RESEARCHER MARIA DAVID AND STAFF WRITERS ANDREW DUNN AND ELISABETH ARRIERO CONTRIBUTED.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson

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31 thoughts on “Killing of 12-step (Narcotics Anonymous) program sponsor raised fears

  1. NA and AA are cults. I’m just going to say it and start out with that. Anyone who does not look into the history behind these groups is leading down a dangerous path. If you don’t know where to look, look up the Oxford group. I was a member of NA for over 5 years. After doing my research and realizing what I was a part of I was horrified. Success rates are not high, as they both claim. I’ve never seen so many people “in recovery” die. When I did finally leave, members came to my home, twice, shaming me, guilting me and questioning my reasoning. I realized it wasn’t me that was scared of living a normal life. It was them. Speaking out against one of these groups was scary; seeing how I was only supposed to associate with other addicts and drunks was scarier. My life wasn’t better during my time “in recovery “. , it was worse . I was made to feel less than, many times hopeless , and after I left I was isolated. My life today is far better. Yes I have the occasional drink , but I’m not a drunk. I socialize with friends and I haven’t gone to jail, an institution , and I’m definitely not dead . I have a great career and I didn’t lose it when I left . I made new friends. People will tell you that you can’t make it without a program. You are made to believe you are fully reliant on others in the program , and that you are different from “normies”. Well I can say I’m not. Being in that cult for 5 years , I was broken down by them, revealing things I shouldn’t have, and didn’t need to and being made to relive them over and over. I think at some point, people need to move on from the past and look toward the future in a positive manner. I started when I was 25, left at 30. I’m speaking out because I know these groups can be dangerous. You can be preyed upon for your money and if you are a woman , it is especially dangerous. People don’t talk , and aren’t allowed to, because what said here stays here . That’s bs too . I need to say that if someone you know , or yourself, has an issue with addiction , there are others ways than becoming addicted to a cult , giving your will and your life over ( their words not mine) and being in blind faith. They make you feel as if all your choices are misguided unless another addict ( your sponsor ) says it’s ok . Which is ridiculous . People , esp those in one of these cults , will disagree with me in every way . But look, NA and AA are not cure alls . I had my time being made to feel different than those who didn’t use ever, and that my choices were wrong, that I needed to make amends for every action every done in my life . Most people didn’t care or remember when I apologized . I’m all about being a good and honest person . But when I left they were threatening , accusatory, and suspicious of me. and made me feel like I was making the worse decision of my life. Turns out that getting out of the cult was the best thing that ever happened.

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    1. HI thankful to get out. Im glad that you figured it out so soon. 5 years!!! WOW you are lucky to have figured it out.
      I agree….any group that says you have to come here forever is a cult. Plain and simple. So one is GOD. For Heavens sake…even Churches dont say that .

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  2. I would add to the discussion of predators in AA that in my case the concept of anonymity was used to try to keep me from reporting the assailant to the police. I am guessing this is pretty common.

    And the man was not an alcoholic. He had addiction issues, but alcohol is not one of them.

    The basic truth in terms of safety is that it is better for people to avoid AA. It really is not like the outside world. It’s not like Disneyland or a movie theater or any of the other public places that I hear people refer to when they want to minimize the predators in AA. Perhaps the amount of crime is similar to the sector of society where people are dealing and consuming hard drugs. I think I will avoid both of those places.

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    1. The truth is AA is one notch up from incarceration. People that either should be in jail, or were in jail, or who are going to jail are in XA. It is not the general population and it is just bizarre that they think it is. More interesting is you are probably hearing it from someone who has avoided jail at some point through the use of AA. Further, the percentage of the overall population that drinks to true excess is rather small and most of those people have problems with the law at some point. AA includes a lot of different types of people, but the one thing they have in common is they are in that small percentage of problem drinkers that also intersects with criminal activity. They are not representative of the general population from behavioral and legal perspectives. They more closely represent the incarcerated population from those perspectives. AND it is so easy to see once it is pointed out. Like, oh yeah, I guess you’re right. It doesn’t even take deep thought to arrive at the truth with this issue, but somehow the easy truth evades people in XA. Why bother with the truth when an ignorant falsehood makes you feel so much better about yourself.

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      1. spj and marie…years ago …like in 1975 , AA in small towns was a better mid section reflection of society. But when EAP programs sprung up as early as the late 70’s Employers such at Pan AM Airlines began one of the first programs in Hawaii. So forcing someone to AA was happening then. But those guys were at least normal.

        As soon as they started using AA for criminals on plea deals it corrupted and made AA /NA very very dangerous.

        Even so, I think AA/NA are very dangerous psychologically and that no one under 25 should attend. Its a mind fuck.

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      2. FUNNY, ALL MY AA FRIENDS ARE RICH AND RETIRED LIKE ME. WE ARE ALMOST ALL ONE PERCENTERS. NOT BIKERS, BUT IN THE 1% OF THE WEALTH IN THE COUNTRY AND THE WORLD.

        WHERE DO YOU FREAKS GO TO MEETINGS COS I WANT TO NOT GO THERE….

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      3. One of the worst meetings is the Pacific Group, filled with poeple dressed up like some stupid parade. Clancy is a known sexual 13 stepper for decades. Maybe he cant do it anymore but I know. There are rapists at the Pacific Group who have gotten away with it. All meetings can be a home for these people. There are woman predators as well. Gay AA is horrible too!

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  3. actually the members of aa do not sit up at night thinking of ways to keep anything that is public from the public. there was a guy in southern calif who told his sponsor he was gay and his sponsor opened his big fat mouth and the gay guy shot him dead in front of a church. aa or not people die from this kind of stuff but purposely trying to keep a LID on open public info that hit the news? no way can that happen. aa nor na nor al-anon nor any 12 step program can tell any of it’s members what to do. there has been murders at disneyland and disneyworld, that hit the news. are to speculate that a 12 step mtg. is controlled by anyone. logic is off. i personally would not bring any family members anywhere near any type of 12 step meeting hall but that doesn’t mean there’s not non aa or na murders. does not compute.

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    1. what?

      Im not having this argument with you. You know damn well what goes on in AA. You are so wrong.

      Al ANON was sued and ala tot was put to rest. Ala Teen was forced to now do back ground checks on all leaders and any one who is a sponsor. So I guess AL ANON and ALa teen do tell their members who can be a leader around teens , and who can be a sponsor.

      I was once an employee at 20th Century Fox and I was sexually harassed. But we didn’t know we could sue. Some gay guy finally sued a Producer we all worked for. Sexual Harassment in the work place is now illegal.

      In the 1960’s …they got away with it all the time!

      One can set a president. Just because law is not in place does not make it right. AA is not like fucking disneyland. Im not holding hands with stranger in disneyland. Im not standing in a circle sitting so close to a stranger , telling them my problems. If someone grabbed my ass in Disney land I would call the cops and file charges.

      IN AA they don’t do it MOST OF THE TIME and other members instead of encouraging you to call the cops, make fun of the victim.

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  4. she should never have got a condo. that could happen with anybody and it does much more often with non members. it’s just a ratio

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  5. Ben, Many of us were insightful enough to take what we needed and leave. We chose not to accept unreasonable, bizarre conditions for the rest of our lives. Do you consider your unwarranted criticism of Tommy; giving back. I see nothing but the truth in his comments and you as being unpolitely judgmental.

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  6. Wow, total judgmental a@@holes is all I can say, what do you know I wonder…I will answer that for you: nothing.. As for you Tommy, take what you want and leave eh..like an NA thief in the night, that’s what we call people who don’t give back..t@sser!

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    1. Ben you are a total troll calling and giving Tommy sh**T. You are showing your nasty true colors like those in meetings. If you write another post like this you will be banned from here. Tommy is sharing here honestly where he cant possibly do that in a meeting.

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  7. Hi, I did N.A in U.K. for over ten years, never getting more than 9 months clean. In that time I had as many sponsors. A famous suggestion is to take your own inventory not others, however this is what most sponsors do….and it is painful and confusing. Recently there was a guy who had been touching up young vulnerable boys he was sponsoring- he has been arrested and hopefully will be charged. In the last 15 years I’ve seen and heard so many bad stories that I can’t even begin to put them here. I WILL say that the steps are great- vey freeing and one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself…..read the books and get suggestins….deal with this stuff and then leave as I have now done. People are what they are and in the rooms of N.A and A.A you will find some of societies nastiest and sickest people. Be careful who you tell what to. The thing that is almost laughable, if it wasn’t so serious, is that the program teaches these people how to then act as spiritual guru’s. I’m reminded of the sentance from the Bible that says ‘if the blind lead the blind they both fall in the ditch’ and this is so true of N.A. There is a lot to learn there that is worth learning…so go learn it but then leave and don’t think you will meet a good freind or partner there. There are three types of freind in this world- ‘For a reason, a season or a life time’ most will fall into the first two catagories- remember that. Take a look at long term members with 10 plus years….many will spin a good yarn as they’ve had plenty of practice and they want to look good but talk afterwards and you will find that they often lack social skills (even after all that work) and are most commonly some of the most self-obsessed, self-centred, self-agrandising and insecure individuals you will ever meet……..most never have relationships as a result or they do, they tend not to go the distance. The danger with going and making it part of your lifestyle or plan (as I found out) is when you leave you feel like you’ve lost everthing you once had and then you have to learn to talk normal English again. Being around miserable, moning people will rub off on you.
    It’s worth mentioning, though, that in A.A’s early days, their success rate was 80%, however this has dropped to 3%. The reasons are thought to be 1) treatment centres (hijacking the program and then adding loads of cliches, catchphrases and ideas not original to the program) and 2) DTO’s or Drug Testing Orders, as they call the in U.K. This last one ment that suddenly a once genteel mostly middle class crowd were hickjacked by hardend criminals that came in and demanded to be heard or else!! This distroyed the previous atmosphere of recovery and many central London meetings are now nut houses (fascinating from a socialogical point of view, as people talk very openly about all kinds of horrors) which are great places to score drugs and pick up vunerable randy women for sex…..I have personally know two women who came in looking for help, got used for sex and then used drugs and died. I really don’t know what the solution is….and so I left, and I’m doing just fine on my own. I know this is long, however, I hope this is useful to someone out there.

    If anyone would like to contact me needing further info or even suggestions on which meetings are good strong ones in London then please feel free to message me at tr1479@hotmail.co.uk

    God bless you all and don’t let the basterds get you down. x

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    1. tommy- hi im sorry Im missed your post till now.

      People are what they are and in the rooms of N.A and A.A you will find some of societies nastiest and sickest people. Be careful who you tell what to. The thing that is almost laughable, if it wasn’t so serious, is that the program teaches these people how to then act as spiritual guru’s

      This is so true. I could not believe how nasty they got the more we tried in LA to make it safer. What other society or community would do this…..The Catholic CHurch—football with Jerry Sandusky-

      I too saw a huge shift in AA after drug courts were created in 1990 in Cali. 1989 in FLorida. It has really harmed what ever was good about AA and NA. I liked your post alot. I too left 2 years ago. Im making a film about it all. It I make it to London I will let you know and maybe us ex steppers can have a meeting of our own.

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      1. yes the drug courts and cps are sending everyone to the rooms because it is cheaper for them to make or regulate their own programs. it is becoming a dumping grounds for people that really really really cannot behave, so the courts are sending them in droves to meetings. and many are not alkies or druggies, just numbers to show their bosses they did what was mandated. now if one gets into the subject of recovery homes, that is a total mess. what to do with criminals waiting to plan their next crime? send them to a place that has a govt. grant so they can rest before their next crime spree.

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    2. My favorite part of Tommys post, worth repeating:

      “Take a look at long term members with 10 plus years….many will spin a good yarn as they’ve had plenty of practice and they want to look good but talk afterwards and you will find that they often lack social skills (even after all that work) and are most commonly some of the most self-obsessed, self-centred, self-agrandising and insecure individuals you will ever meet……..most never have relationships as a result or they do, they tend not to go the distance. The danger with going and making it part of your lifestyle or plan (as I found out) is when you leave you feel like you’ve lost everthing you once had and then you have to learn to talk normal English again. Being around miserable, moning people will rub off on you.”

      Wow!, have i seen this happen to people. However, Ive seen it take less than 10 years; if you let yourself believe everything that is said in the program/cult; give up your individuality and believe AA is the answer to all of your problems, you will never find serenity and end up more confused than ever. Be careful who you “so call give back to”, it could cause serious harm to someone; if you really care about them. Ask yourself if you really have the knowledge and the professionalism to help them. Know your limits and have the wisdom to know the difference .

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  8. At least a train wreck is what it is. It doesn’t get worse. The longer one looks at these 12 step programs and the people who populate them…the worse it gets.

    The entire sponsorship component is a recipe for disaster. (That’s why programs like SMART will not have anything to do with the whole sponsorship scenario.) It gives sick people POWER over other sick people. One doesn’t need psychic abilities to see what kind of problems this fosters.

    These situations are not at all isolated as some would mislead us to believe. There is a history of abuse, rape, violence and murder within and around AA and NA and other 12 Step based programs. And why should people risk this? For a “treatment” program which is in essence no real treatment at all?

    Why can’t they just be honest, call themselves the name that is one their headquaters building: InterChurch … And go on and preach their doctrine and seek real converts instead of convicts like all the other churches. Let all who come that are drawn to their “message” … and let the rest of society be.

    DAMN!

    They want it both ways, side ways and everything they can come up with in between.

    People are suffering…

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  9. I heard tell of a story where in a guy raped a woman who called in for help on an NA hotline years back. I was just saying that those AA’ers and Na types are a bit shady like and these them peeps need to be called out. I never did trust them folks too much. All huggy and what not. GIve me the hibby jibbies.

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    1. Everyone needs to know that AA and NA and all 12 step programs have no one in charge in each group, that there are no trained facilitators of any kind, and that includes SPONSORS, that the secretaries running the group could also be an oldtimer predator of sorts and are also not trained and that 12 step program/meetings are NOT A PROFESSIONAL SETTING of ANY KIND!

      This is not the first murder like this. The following story needs to be told and NA and AA need to make safety measures for their own members and they also need to tell Hollywood to stop lying about what goes on in 12 step meetings and it’s culture. We are getting alot of complaints here about controlling and abusive sponsors.

      The Public at Large needs to know that a Sponsor is just an ordinary AA/NA member. They are not trained, they are not professionals, they could be nuts, they could be scammers, they could be sexual predators. Not only are there NO RULES, no Guidelines or polices in the current AA structure, there is a serious covering up and member on member abuse and non support when an oldtimer abuses a newer person. Not that this is what happened here. We dont know, but we are tired of the opposite approach of giving the credit to AA and NA as if it is some special safe and wonderful place WHICH IT IS NOT!!!

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