The Fix Turns Six!

By The Fix 03/03/17

Six years later, The Fix is still going strong. From AA cults to the opioid crisis, here are 13 favorite stories which have stood the test of time.

A drawing of people milling around with 12-step posters on the wall and the initials AG and PG. A big Kool-Aid pitcher is waving.

The Fix launched in March 2011 with a snappy tag line—"addiction and recovery, straight up"—and a small band of writers and editors based in Brooklyn with a mission to bring news about addiction and recovery to the masses. The site has grown beyond all expectations, now boasting over 750,000 readers a month, publishing writers we have long admired—from Susan Cheever and Maia Szalavitz to Zachary Siegel and Amy Dresner. We're still going strong, and to commemorate the anniversary we've selected a baker's dozen of some of our—and more importantly, some of your—favorite stories from the past six years. Thank you all for your loyalty and for being a part of our community.

Mommy's Little Secret: The Truth About Diane Schuler

Former columnist Susan Cheever has covered many topics on the site, many regarding the history of AA. But in this sad report, the author of My Name is Bill, a biography of AA co-founder Bill Wilson, details the devastating effects of alcoholism. Diane Schuler, a 36-year old mother, killed eight people including herself, her daughter and three nieces in a drunk driving accident. Nobody suspected that Schuler even had a drinking problem. On the question before and in early recovery—am I an alcoholic?—Cheever posits: "For women asking themselves this question today, the tragic story of Diane Schuler—who was clearly a good mother and a good worker and an awful alcoholic—provides an acute, dreadful incentive to look in the mirror."


 AA Cults I Have Known

Is AA a cult? The question has popped up many times on the site, but in this story Ben Aldo details the many cult-like meetings he's come across in his 20-plus years in AA—from Europe to California to New York. Recalling the rage-filled and scripted Joys of Recovery Group in London, the always controversial Pacific Group in LA and its New York offshoot, the Atlantic Group, Aldo concludes that such meetings are more of an alt-right version of recovery, and technically not AA meetings at all, given the number of Traditions they break. He also delves into the sordid history of the Midtown Group, which was brought down by accusations of sexual impropriety.


 Addiction is a Response to Childhood Suffering: In Depth with Gabor Maté

Dr. Gabor Maté, the Hungarian-born, Canadian physician, is well known to regular readers of The Fix. The author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is known for his beliefs in the connection between mind and body health, of the effect of childhood trauma on potential addiction, and in the benefits of harm reduction. But for all our coverage of Dr. Maté, regular contributor John Lavitt went above and beyond with this detailed, in-depth interview last year. Lavitt, who joined the site in 2013 and also served as the Treatment Professional News Editor, has contributed dozens of long-form interviews with prominent figures in the addiction and recovery field, including "Recovery Czar" Michael Botticelli, Dr. Lance Dodes, and America's Hospice Hero, Jay Westbrook. In this piece, Lavitt's talents were well matched with Dr. Maté's insights, leading to his point that "emotional isolation is a major risk factor for disease, addiction, illness, death and everything else."


Junkies in the Hurricane

In this gripping report, the pseudonymous Eliza Player wrote about one addict's response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans: "Crucially, the rules of scoring had also changed; most of the dealers had abandoned New Orleans, but unguarded pharmacies remained." She goes on to raid a pharmacy and scores: "Making rapid decisions, I pulled nearly every third bottle into the cooler. I made a beeline back to the apartment. My cooler overflowed with bottles and boxes: Fentanyl patches in 100mg, 50 mg and 25mg; Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin; Haloperidol in pills and liquid, 2mg, 4mg, 10mg and 25mg; Seroquel, Trazedone, Thorazine and Lamictal; Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Dilaudid; Phenergan with Codeine Cough Syrup. It was a glorious sight. Right then, I thought I would never be dope sick again." Recounting the devastation around her, Player concludes, "It took a cataclysmic event to show the stubborn addict I was that it was time to change my trajectory ... My rock bottom was filled with water."


Do Sexual Predators Thrive in Alcoholics Anonymous?

In this personal essay from 2012, a young woman who came into AA at age 17 wrote about her experience with sexual aggression in the meetings she went to in Los Angeles. "These men swarmed me," she wrote, "as they did every other newcomer too young and inexperienced to distinguish between the loving hand of AA and the clammy hand of a predator." In the thousand-plus comments the story received, one reader suggested the author might want to try women's meetings. But beyond her personal experience of creepy, inappropriate advances was the larger disturbing point: "The way most of the AA community pretended not to notice what was happening to me or to countless other girls I got sober with." The story took on an even more chilling tone when Zachary Siegel reported on the death of Karla Mendez Brada. He concluded that AA wasn't at fault for the murder of one of its members, but the 1,800 comments following that story incited even stronger responses.


Exclusive: New Details Emerge About Audrey Kishline's Death

In December of 2014, Audrey Kishline, the founder of Moderation Management, killed herself. One of the saddest stories on our site was recounted in the two reports by Regina Walker on her suicide. In this second report, Walker spoke with Sheryl Maloy-Davis, whose husband and 12-year-old daughter were killed by Kishline in a drunk driving accident in 2000. The two met while Kishline served out her prison term, and Maloy-Davis, a devout Christian, struggled to forgive Kishline. Maloy-Davis and Kishline went on to forge a friendship and a partnership, writing a book together called Face to Face.


 Life as a Sober Bartender

A steady voice of reason since he joined The Fix four years ago, Harry Healy has covered subjects ranging from the need for anonymity in AA, his reliance on the Big Book, and keeping politics out of the rooms of AA. Back in 2013, Healy, the pseudonym for a newspaper columnist and author in Manhattan, also wrote about how a long-time sober member of AA has supported his family by being a bartender all over New York City, and how that career has grown along with his sobriety. Now running one of the trendiest hotspots in Manhattan, Healy reflected on an earlier low point: "The glitz and the glamor were gone. I manned a corner dive where my favorite customer traded me bags of dope for cognac with honey. If we had honey."


What You Really Don't Know About Recovery

From The Fix's very beginning until 2014, Maia Szalavitz was an outstanding voice on the site, delivering over 60 reports on the state of addiction in the country and her own personal struggles. In this story from 2012, she outlines the myths of recovery, delivering the edict that "There is no lack of proof that the result of tough love is often harm rather than help." Szalavitz has continued to be an author and journalist on health and addiction, recently publishing the acclaimed Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction


What's So Bad About the New Definition of Addiction?

A mainstay on The Fix since 2012, the Professional Voices column has been edited by Dr. Richard Juman, a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in the field of addiction for over 25 years. He has also served as the President of the New York State Psychological Association. For the past five years Dr. Juman has provided a forum for his vast network of fellow professionals in the addiction field to bring light to the problems they face and potential solutions in treating patients and the public at large. Occasionally, Dr. Juman would offer his own take, as in this 2013 report on the then-upcoming DSM-5. Few topics (Suboxone, to 12-step or not to 12-step) have had as much impact on our readership as the unveiling of this latest edition of the DSM, and Dr. Juman's take was refreshing, profound and enlightening—just as his entire section has been. 


How Prison Helped Get Me Sober

Five years ago, The Fix heard from Seth Ferranti, who at that time was serving 25 years in prison for drug trafficking. He had been in prison since 1993, when, at the age of 22, he was locked up for a first time, non-violent offense. In one of his first stories for the site, he spelled out how prison had helped him to get sober. In August of 2014, he wrote about finally being released back into society. Since then, Ferranti has continued to detail his path to recovery on the outside—both from his drug use and the lingering effects of the criminal justice system.


A Critic and an Advocate Debate the Pros and Cons of the 12-Step Model

No topic incites more passion—at least in our comments section—than those who are for or against 12-step recovery. Two years ago we sent our roving reporter Zachary Siegel to set up a debate between two of our Pro Voices contributors—Dr. Lance Dodes, author of The Sober Truth, and Joe Nowinski, author of If You Work It, It Works—to hammer out the truth. What emerged were a few shared insights, and Nowinski’s summation of their differences with the statement, “According to Dr. Dodes, addiction is the result of powerlessness, but from my point of view powerlessness is the result of addiction.” The debate still rages on our site, as the nearly 1,200 comments beneath it testify.


Keeping Your Sobriety in the Psych Ward

A favorite Fix columnist has long been Amy Dresner, whose irreverent, hilarious voice has punctured the pomposity of many in recovery, all while bearing the weight of her many addictions and her struggle to get and remain sober. In one of her early pieces for the site, she wrote about holding on to her newfound sobriety while staying on a psych ward. One of the great satisfactions of working at The Fix has been to watch Dresner write about her sobriety from the very early days up until the present. Her vigilance has more than paid off, with a book coming out later this year, My Fair Junkie, to be published in September by Hachette. While her life has gotten better, her voice has remained as strident, outrageous, and as honest as ever.


Suburban Nightmare: Opiates in Poway, California

Last year, Maggie Ethridge told how the opioid epidemic has affected the typical suburban town of Poway, California. Between the years 2000 and 2007, seven people, most of them young, died from opioid abuse. Between 2007 and 2015 a further 24 died, almost all of them white and male. This in a town of 50,000 people, and, as Ethridge details, that does not count the near death cases—nor the seriously brain injured—as in the case of pictured football player Aaron Rubin. Despite the devastation, Ethridge told of one case of sobriety, and offered possible solutions that are universal: "We need to be unafraid to use words like addiction and overdose ... We need to talk about what is happening in our community, loudly, from all available platforms, with more concern for the lives of our children than for the reputation and funding of our schools and sports teams. We need to foster true connection in our community, which has been called the opposite of addiction, to thwart the need for emotional escape."

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