Alcoholics Anonymous Allergy Model Madness Displayed by Jane Velez-Mitchell

For those who don’t know, the kind of talk you’ll see in the video below is the exact kind of self-defeating nonsense taught around the rooms of AA meetings and rehabs:

Jane Velez Mitchell is a “recovering alcoholic” who claims to be “addicted to consumption. She hosts a show on HLN, has authored books on recovery, and appears on several television shows as a recovery guru. She has said she used the 12 steps to get into “recovery.” The things she says about recovery in the video clip above come straight out of twelve step ideology.

She really believes that if she used hand sanitizer containing alcohol, that it would cause her to relapse! This is certainly comical, but not when it’s taught to your loved one, and causes them to feel fragile, afraid, and to ultimately “relapse” from the “disease” that’s “doing push-ups in the parking lot.”

Click here for more on the “allergy model of addiction”:

Click here for more on the effects of this kind of thinking:

She’s not alone (added 8/18/14)

Elsewhere on this site, AA members have pretended as if the kinds of things Jane Velez-Mitchell said above are unheard of. They are not. Those of us who’ve spent any considerable amount of time in 12-step meetings have heard such things countless times. I have heard personally at meetings of “relapses” “triggered” by using mouthwash, colognes & perfumes, and other alcohol containing products. These tales are of course absurd, but to the person experiencing that as their truth, it feels quite real that the whole thing was set into motion and beyond their control because of contact with a product that contained alcohol.

Today, I stumbled onto a written example of a story I’ve heard countless times – relapse by dessert containing alcohol. Usually, it’s tiramisu at a wedding. Here’s an account of a nondescript trifle as the culprit, from the article “Ten Freaky Freelapses” at

I had been going through a rough time in my sobriety when I went away on a ski trip with my husband’s family, none of whom are in recovery. After dinner one night, we had a layered trifle-type dessert made by my father-in-law. I dug in. The top layers were alcohol-free, but when I shoveled the last spoonful in my mouth, I realized I had swallowed a surprise shot of liquor that was part of the sauce at the bottom of the dish.

My sobriety had already been on the brink, so I just thought fuck it. That one mouthful of booze kicked off a year of actual relapsing. It wasn’t until I received diagnoses and treatment for my mental health issues that I was able to regain a hold of my sobriety again. I now have six years sober.

See how it works? “I just thought fuck it. That one mouthful of booze kicked off a year of actual relapsing. “ No it didn’t. The part where you thought “fuck it” did, and that itself was simply a product of your infatuation with alcohol combined with your ingrained belief that you’d lose control, providing both an expectancy response and a convenient excuse to do what you’ve been wanting to do.

If any readers have links to other documented cases like this, please send me links/leave them in the comments. I’d love to make this article a database of this nonsense, so I have somewhere to point the deniers.


  1. Michelle says

    Wow. Should we take a pool on when Jane’s “real alcoholism” will catch up with her again? It will probably happen when she shakes someone’s hand who used hand sanitizer or when she’s at a party and eats some vegan marinara sauce. Then watch out because she’s a “real alcoholic”. This would be comical if it weren’t so incredibly harmful.

  2. ZSL says

    Its a shame that fear-mongering is norm with the 12-steppers. Where is the freedom in “sobriety” if some elusive, unseen disease is waiting for you ready to pounce? Happy, joyous and free? Sounds more like control, fear and anxiety. Thank God I left AA when I did – saved my life.

  3. Colleen C. says

    To the first commenter above … learn how to spell, first of all. Second, the person in the video is not speaking for AA or any Twelve-Step program but The Fix. Figure out the facts before you comment. 12-Step programs do not claim to be the only answer. I have been a member for some time and I can leave whenever I want to — and I have. I choose to continue because it works for me and has made my life a hell of a lot better than it was. There are many of us in the rooms who HAVE found freedom in 12-Step recovery. It is not a one-size fits all program, and we freely acknowledge there are other paths to stopping. If it works for you, more power to you.

    • says

      Hi Colleen,

      I’m not sure how you think you’re correcting anyone here. Where are the spelling mistakes that have you so miffed?

      Also, what is your point about Jane “not speaking for AA”? Your comment is mostly incoherent. I think I know what you might be thinking with this – that she’s not an official AA spokesperson. If that’s your point, so what? No one here claimed that she was. But if you’re trying to deny that anything she says in the video comes directly from 12-step teachings and culture, and that it doesn’t represent things that have been said ad nauseum by 12-steppers both in and out of meetings, then I’m sorry but you’re completely delusional.


    • Iamnotastatistic says

      Regarding the comment that “12-Step programs do not claim to be the only answer” – it cannot legitimately be claimed that this is true. Consider the following recent comments from two of AA’s most senior trusted servants:

      1. Rev. Ward Ewing, Class A (nonalcoholic) Trustee and Chairperson of the General Service Board of A.A., speaking at A.A.’s 2012 Pacific Regional Forum stated that:
      “The spiritual program of A.A. is the only program that provides long-term sobriety.”, “We have a powerful spiritual program that works – the only program that truly works for long-term sobriety.” and “This is the only way that has ever worked effectively over the long term.”

      2. Phyllis Halliday(alcoholic and AA member), President of AAWS, Inc. and GSO General Manager, stated the following when addressing A.A.’s 2011 European Service Meeting in Frankfurt, Germany:
      “One thing is certain, there would be no hope for any alcoholic anywhere if the collective pulse of this lifesaving spiritual fellowship were not lighting the way with love and trust.”

      These comments make it undeniably clear that the opinion of AA’s most senior officers is that AA is the only answer. These comments by AA officials are in official AA documents on official AA websites.
      Is this enough proof or do we need it to be carved in stone by “one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience”?

  4. Colleen C. says

    Steve, I may be a little picky when it comes to spelling and grammar, but I wasn’t miffed. Just commenting on another person’s comment, up later than I probably needed to be on a Wednesday night, and I could have worded my comment in a kinder way (unlike the three comments that were posted before mine). I stumbled across your website by accident, while searching for another individual’s site/video on addiction that was recommended by a friend. Speaking of incoherent comments, I was actually referring to the first comment above, made by Michelle. For the record, the word is spelled “poll”, not “pool”. Again, not miffed… just sayin’. The point I was actually making was, in fact, that Jane is not to be mistaken for an A.A. spokesperson. Mine is absolutely a valid point, since your article mentions Alcoholics Anonymous by name, in the title directly above the video; the article then includes a link below the video that goes directly to another article you wrote, that also mentions AA in the title. It could feasibly lead a viewer/reader (particularly those with little or no experience or understanding of AA) to believe Jane is a spokesperson for the program. There are many of us who have recovered by following the SUGGESTED practical program of Alcoholics Anonymous of recovering with the help of another alcoholic/addict, and in turn working with others. I also have a bottle of alcohol based hand sanitizer in my purse as I write this, and have been known to use it without fear of relapse. 😉 What I am actually “denying” is the fairness and accuracy of suggesting that the majority of 12-Steppers believe and say these things, in or out of meetings. It is a spiritual program of recovery, not magical or mystical, but a practical program that has worked for many of us who work it. And yes, we believe the physical addiction is one part of it. To say that I am completely delusional is simply an ad-hominem attack.

    • ZSL says

      Colleen, if I remember, there are no spokespeople at all in AA – that’s one of the main principles of the traditions. What you continue to miss is that, no matter how you frame it, this message of ” watch your back because the disease is doing push ups” serves as a scare tactic which keeps people tethered to an external locus of control. By doing so, people learn to become helpless in and of themselves. The only hope is a higher power. I think that is a cop out and I speak out against it. Steven’s point (Correct me if I’m wrong) is that, both he and I have heard this erroneous dogma in thousands of meetings. So whether or not you want to acknowledge that truth is entirely up to you. Also, no sponsor I ever had suggested I do the steps. I was told I’d “drink and die” if I didn’t. And please don’t counter with “my group doesn’t do that”. The point is that thousands do.

      • says

        Thanks ZSL, that’s exactly it.

        I’ve been to too many meetings (AA, NA, CA), a rehab founded by Bill Wilson, and many other 12 step infused treatment programs. In addition to this, I’ve met and spoken with thousands of people who’ve been in 12-step groups and learned these things.

        I’ve also met too many people who actually said that using mouthwash, cough syrup, cologne, or eating a piece of rumcake or tiramisu caused them to relapse. Where do they get that idea from? Hmmm…. let me think……. AA?

        I can’t take the little games they play to insulate themselves from criticism. It’s so incredibly transparent. If you quote the big book, then AA isn’t the big book, it’s the members – if you quote a member, then they’re not “an official spokesperson” and you should really be consulting the book. Does anyone doubt that Jane Velez-Mitchell is spouting the same nonsense to her sponsees (if she has any) that she said in the video above? Does that not count for anything? It isn’t the first time such nonsense has been spoken, and it’s a direct consequence of “the doctor’s opinion” and other AA writings – this just happens to be one particularly egregious example caught on video.

        I don’t know how anyone would get the idea from my post that Jane Velez-Mitchell is an “official AA spokesperson” from my post when I never said such a thing. Who goes around assuming that anyone who speaks on a topic is an “official spokesperson” of any kind without those words being uttered? Thanks a lot Colleen for letting everyone know that Jane is not an official AA spokesperson, because there would’ve been so much confusion without your clarification.

    • says

      My “completely delusional” comment was a conditional statement. I said “IF you’re trying to deny”… “THEN I’m sorry but you’re completely delusional”.

      Pay attention, and read before you comment – that way, you won’t look so bad.

  5. Colleen C. says

    I continue to miss nothing, thank you very much. I stand behind the comments I’ve made earlier, and am not worried about whether another person thinks I look bad. If you or others think I do look bad, that’s okay. Your replies seem defensive and condescending (particularly the second half of your last sentence), whether couched in conditional statements or not. Again, that’s fine. Ultimately, it comes down to drinking/using or not. I’ve found what works for me, as millions of others have, and I choose not to attack other means of achieving sobriety outside of 12-Step recovery. It is your blog, and obviously you can say what you want. Be well, and again, best wishes with your website dedicated to sharing information about addiction.

    • says

      Thanks for lecturing me on tone. Let me remind you of the first two sentences of your first comment on this post:

      “To the first commenter above … learn how to spell, first of all. Second, the person in the video is not speaking for AA or any Twelve-Step program but The Fix. Figure out the facts before you comment.

      You obviously came here to pick a fight, so please don’t get all self-righteous when you get what you asked for.

  6. Colleen C. says

    I was actually pointing out that AA has no official spokesperson, that’s what I meant by my comment. Many people out there are unaware that AA has no spokesperson, no governing body, no leader. I suggested that it could be mistaken as an AA video, to a person with little or no knowledge of what the 12-Step program actually is about, since the title directly above the video contains the words Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s all I was saying. At any rate, the purpose of your website is NOT to promote twelve-step programs (actually, quite the opposite). I get that. You aren’t here to post positive information about AA or other similar programs on your site; actually just the opposite, and that is fine. I , too, have met and spoken with thousands of people who have been in the rooms, and I know many of them personally and happen to have a different opinion from my own experience. I make no attempt to insulate from criticism, nor does AA. It is a program for those who want it. If another way worked for you, more power to you. We take no position on outside issues. Again, thank you for creating a forum to promote awareness of discussion about alcoholism/addiction.

    • says

      To all readers of the above comment. although the commenter uses the words Alcoholics Anonymous in her post, and claims to be involved in AA, I want you to know that she IS NOT AN OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON OF AA. I hope there isn’t any confusion, and nobody gets the wrong idea. The things she says should not be taken to be representative of anything that might be said or believed in AA whatsoever.

      • Colleen C. says

        Thank you, Steven for clarifying, and I enjoy the sarcasm! I also wanted to say that I owe an amends to Michelle for any harsh comments that were spoken last night. For the record, I do own a “Big Book” but I am not a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve been involved with other programs that use the Steps, not AA, though the recovery model pioneered by them works for me. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. No matter what, through it all, I appreciate that you are promoting awareness of a problem that continues to have so much shame surrounding it and many people still don’t want to talk about or understand.

        • Travis says

          Baloney. You have an intimate grasp of AA jargon and used the plural ‘we’ when defending AA. Where’s your much-ballyhooed ‘rigorous honesty’? Load of bunk. I will say this, of all the AA zealots out there with hair trigger fingers attached to the caps lock and exclamation point buttons, Colleen C dialed it down a smidge.

  7. Travis says

    Baloney. You have an intimate grasp of AA jargon and used the plural ‘we’ when defending AA. Where’s your much-ballyhooed ‘rigorous honesty’? Load of bunk. I will say this, of all the AA zealots out there with hair trigger fingers attached to the caps lock and exclamation point buttons, Colleen C dialed it down a smidge.

    • Colleen C. says

      “We”, meaning those who choose to participate in Twelve-Step recovery programs. This includes Alcoholics Anonymous and the other programs which use the recovery model pioneered by AA.

      • Matt says


        Don’t waste your time with this guy. He gets off on trying to prove people wrong and make them look stupid. I fell for it as well. Unfortunately, Steve and his best buddies on this site can’t just be happy for people who have found a way to stay sober. His childish banter and pokes are quite amusing to me, now. What a job! Getting paid to make people feel stupid! I’m in the wrong line of work. Steve, are you hiring?

        • Colleen C. says

          I know, Matt! You are so right. Like I said earlier, I stumbled upon this website by accident looking for another person’s video on addiction/recovery. After my first comment, the angry replies started and then the toxicity just kept flowing … wow, the floodgates were opened! Every word I wrote was picked apart, and I received replies with bold-faced words, all capitalized letters, italicized … and all of the above! He even took the time to look for a Wikipedia entry, which did actually make me laugh. I finally had to just detach and jump out of the toxic cesspool. Besides, I’d already communicated that if their way worked for them, great! I appreciate your support, Matt. Awesome! It really is amusing to me now as well, I agree. 😉

  8. Jonas says

    If you guys are so happy and in possession of Serenity, why do you feel the need to come on this site and fight about it?

  9. Official AA Spokesman says

    Ok, I’m here to clear up any confusion. The program of AA is an irrational solution to an irrational problem, certainly open to scrutiny. Since the message is carried and relayed by people, notably former alcoholics, it is inherently imperfect. Motivation to change is sometimes difficult to come by, and AA does not shy away from including fear as one of these motivations. Fear is a powerful motivator, and utilizes our own natural instinct for survival. However, we would hope that it is in no way the primary motivating factor for individuals to follow the 12-steps to recovery. The 12-steps are intended to help one change the way that one relates to oneself and others by conceptualizing and relying on a power greater than oneself. The changes brought about by this process will allow one to achieve a more fulfilling life. A life less centered around oneself. A life with more potential of happiness and freedom. Some AAs, however, do choose to focus more on fear in order to prevent relapse, or to encourage others to work the program. We find this unfortunate. What we do hope and pray for is that anyone finding themselves in need of assistance with addiction issues simply be Honest, Open-Minded, and Willing to try whatever they feel compelled to do in order to overcome their addiction. We hope that someone who reads this article is not scared away from trying AA because of fear it will cause them further damage, as this article seems to imply. There are plenty of disagreements among AA members about the specific things that should or not be done or thought or taught. We allow such contention to exist and in fact find it necessary for a healthy fellowship to continue to exist. No individual has a monopoly on communication with a higher power. It is out sincerest hope that all who suffer from addiction problems may find the strength to overcome them, a strength we believe must be acquired outside of oneself. Above all, seek balance, be true to yourself, and please try to love one another.
    God (as we understand Him) bless!

  10. says


    sorry to be coming to this party so late but the subject matter is just irresistible. i’m (*cue laugh-track*) POWERLESS over my inability to refrain from commenting!

    that this ‘allergy to alcohol’ bugaboo is seeing airtime – on Headline News Network courtesy Velez-Mitchell’s totally uninformed, this side of coherent opinionating – is really kind of sad. a while ago – when the ‘stinkin-thinkin’ blog ran under the masthead of ‘donewithaa’ – i ran some posts poking fun at one of the more vocal AA proponents who regularly visited the site (affectionately known as Cheesecake Danny) by taking on the absurd fear-mongering inherent in the Allergy to Alcohol meme. i employed some admittedly silly arithmetic in comparing the experiences of drinking a shot of bourbon and eating a normal slice of cheesecake prepared with vanilla extract.

    now my posts were as imbued with gravitas as Velez-Mitchell’s delirious stump speech linked to above; that is to say, none. as i saw it (the same way i saw it when wasting years of my life in the a-of-a), the subject was profoundly … vacuous. in a program full of empty jargon and lunk-headed rhetoric, this particular nugget (i can’t help myself!) took the cake!

    that said, the relatively serious subject of blood-alcohol levels and an individual’s state of sobriety was eventually teased out in the comments section. the avowed abstainer from cheesecake stated without equivocation that even the smallest trace amount of alcohol in his body (e.g., from the righteously feared slice of cheesecake) would inexorably lead to wanton alcoholic debauchery. no two ways about it: a ‘real alcoholic’ had to be ever on guard against even the slightest jot of alcohol that might invade his (or her) body.

    and that’s when i surfaced the subject of endogenous ethanol production.

    for those on the blog who might be unfamiliar with the topic, i’ll just advise a quick google search. you’ll get a wealth of links citing everything from wikipedia to scholarly papers to goofy advice column pieces (‘The Straight Dope’ – a long-time favorite of mine) on the subject. long story short: living humans produce alcohol (ethanol) in minute amounts as a sub-process to the larger effort of … oh, i don’t know … existing[?].

    that’s one of those annoying objective facts that the a-of-a and its hale and hearty fellowship (Ms. Velez included) refuses to accept. the very basis of the 12×12 program of recovery is negated at the start: of course i’m powerless over alcohol! my body produces it on a daily basis. there’s no recovering from that harsh truth.

    ergo, the program becomes ultimately un-doable. [g]OD, Hocus-Pocus, whoever or whatever you want to cede your will and life over to simply can’t ‘cure’ you of your alcoholism – your spiritual DISEASE (“Alcoholics Anonymous”, Chapter 5 – How It Works, pg. 64; Copyright © 1939, 1955, 1976, 2001 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.) – without killing you.

    something tells me that’s not what bill wilson in 1938 nor Jane Velez-Mitchell in 2013 had in mind. still, if the a-of-a program and its individual practitioners are going to be so liberal when comes to tossing about words like ‘allergy’, ‘disease’ and the ever popular ‘sobriety’ – all of which had and continue to have common, objective meanings – then it’s incumbent on rational people to point out the wild inaccuracies regularly being propagated.

    as they say in the (jargon alert!) ‘rooms’, it’s a matter of life and death.

    pardon the adverbs,


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