Sunday, August 26, 2007

Men and Women in AA

My friend Larry was recently told by a woman he helped to get sober that she couldn't talk to him anymore. Her sponsor said so. Because he is a man. She is a woman and he is a man. And her sponsor says she can't talk to him.

What a wonderful way to cut your chances at recovery in half. What a fabulous way to spit in the face of God's Grace - and tell God who he ought to put in your life. What an efficient way to narrow your world down by 50%. And probably there are more rules in there that whittle it right down to far less than 50%.

When I was new in AA, there were certainly sponsors who advised their "pigeons" to stick to the women - hang out only with women. Stay away from the men. I looked at these sponsors and thought, in my newcomer's supreme judgment, that these women were old and unattractive and had no chance of being with a man and so they didn't want anyone else to either. (And furthermore, I have never had a sponsor who called me anything other than a "sponsee" or even a "friend". I am not a pigeon. I am not a baby. I am an adult human being. A female alcoholic human being. )

I was far more comfortable with men than women. That is a trait common to probably most alcoholic women. I found sober men to hang out with. Most of the time it was a healthy thing. Sometimes it wasn't. I didn't get to AA with a surplus of virtue, most people don't. Part of what I found so appealing about AA when I got here was the number of men - and they all seemed to like me pretty well. I loved the attention. I also hung out with sober women. I had a sober woman sponsor. But I really loved the men. I spent hours each day on the phone with them. I slept with some of them! (Shock! Horror!) At one point, I had a male sponsor and I slept with him! (Shock! Horror!) And by the Grace of God, not my fabulous WORK, I stayed sober.

By the time I was sober about 5 years, I stopped carrying on like this. I had created a lot of wreckage in my sobriety. God had made me ready to change. And he gave me the ability to stop doing things I thought I would never stop doing. And I was grateful. But like my drinking, I wasn't ready to change this behavior until I was ready to change.

By the time I was sober about 10 years, I realized that some of the myths I believed about AA were simply not true. I had believed there was a shortage of sober women. I started looking around the rooms at meetings and when I opened my eyes, I saw that there were women, usually quiet and unassuming, who were sober for decades. In almost every room, there were these women. I started talking to these women. I found that most of them were pretty much like me. They had hung out with the men. They were not all as promiscuous as I had been, but they had hung out with men. Some of them had men for sponsors.

I started watching the women who cluck around each other, like a little herd of hens. They get fragile, their world view gets very narrow. They have one faith or another that they share and don't much approve of people who don't. In my experience, in my observations, they do not stay sober.

We drunks make up a great mosaic in AA. Each piece separately might seem to have very limited value, but the picture would not be complete without it. Each person brings something to AA, something we need. I don't tell God that this mosaic would be OK if only the red pieces were removed. I only want the blue pieces. Maybe green, but definitely not red or purple. I believe that God puts just the right people into my life each and every day. I would not dare to tell God who He ought to put into my life.

In my sobriety, I believe I have made every mistake a person can make. The only things I have done consistently right are going to meetings and not picking up a drink. I don't believe that I keep me sober by works. I believe that I am sober by the Grace of a Loving God. I would not advocate doing a lot of the things I have done, but I know that each day I can only do things to the best of my ability, and as a newly sober woman, I didn't have much ability. We aren't meant to get to AA and get perfect overnight. We will improve with time if we just don't drink.

"Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought AA membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an AA group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation." -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 565 (the third tradition)


Pam said...

ALRIGHT MC...hold that ladder still sugar butt, and let me get on that soapbox with you!!!
I am a sponsee and I have sponsees.
Yes Yes Yes....don't diminish me by calling me a freakin' bird. (lots of people down here say chickee)
Three names off the top of my head that because of their integrity and awesome spirituality kept me coming back in the begining..George, Keith, Brad. Low and behold...MEN.
Who put these men in my path? GOD.
What irritates me: Adding rules to the program that are not in the book!!!
Love your passion today!
Love your passion everyday!
You are my hero.

Shannon said...

HI MC, good topic...I love you!!! We have some simular expiernces, ahahahah - I had 2 male sponsors at one time and I slept with one too (gasp) The one I didnt sleep with, tried to get me in bed... LOL we are all sick. I think I, like many alcoholic women, didnt know how to relate to the women. I loved the attention I got from the men too... But I also learned a lot from the old timers. I sat with them in meetings and hung out with them when we to coffee and stuff...
I also see your point on if you cut the men out you are cutting out 50% of the population.
I recently had a sponsee ask me if it was ok to sponsor a guy. I asked her what she thought and she said, well there had been some uncomfortable times, like an attraction sort of thing, but she feels like she should help him. And that she was very torn. Now me knowing this woman, who was like us MC, loving the guys attention sometimes in a way that is self destructive to her, I advised her not to. I advised her to introduce him to the guys. I told her, go to meetings together, and yea, talk about the book, the program ect, but really he should have a man sponsor.
To me I guess it depends on the situation? We have a saying around here that goes, like this
Women stick with the women, and men stick with the men, because the men will only pat you ass while the woman will cover your ass... I dont necessarily agree with, but on the other hand, I know some of the guys around here but then the same can apply toward some of the women if ya know what I mean... now, I dont take that saying to mean do not assoicate with the guys, just as far as sponsoring, no- not a good idea, which, by my expiernce I found out not a good idea when I was new in sobriety, because I seemed to pick the guys who had the alterierior motives also. Man I am really going off here MC... LOL
One more thing, I think yea, go out to coffee all together, have big book studies, talk about the book, the program, and EHS - learn how to be friends, with no strings- But soley using a guy to be a sponsor, I tell them to check your motives, and its probably not a good idea...
I also hated the term Pidgeon and babies... LOL I call my sponsor a friend, or a sponsor, and I try to relay that to my sponsees as well.

OK I am off my soap box now ahahahah
Have a marvelous Sunday, and thanks for putting up with me, and all my spelling errors... LOL

Shannon said...

OH dang I guess I did go off...

Scott W said...

My experience with the same sex/opposite sex would be that in gay AA we go both ways! LOL

Drinkin Joe said...

Right on, you can never trust AA and "Sponsors". Don't do it

LAS said...

Thanks for this post! I really appreciated it and can relate. I have had a lot of similar experiences in the two years I've been in the program!

lash505 said...

thats so true.. you should be able to talk to anyone..

Drew's Sis said...

Thank you for your blog. My brother admitted himself to Arapahoe House for detox yesterday but walked out today. My family is struggling, but we are hanging in there.

I appreciate blogs such as yours, people who are willing to share their experiences. I hope you know how much you help your readers.

Sober @ Sundown said...

Very nice post MC.

Your dry sense of humor is very delightful.

recoveryroad said...

Some of the most important lessons I have learned in recovery have been taught to me by women.


Motorcycle Mike - Sober Biker said...

Dang, I hate it when I miss a good rant. Always fun to catch up and love what you share.

Christine said...

your honesty is disarming---is that the word I want?

having made mny mistakes in and out of the rooms----thank God for women like you and the men I needed to know too

lushgurl said...

Hoo boy, does this ever bring out the passion in people! I know for me, I found myself hanging out with the men too, in earlier sobriety. I also know that I had some woman/mother/trust issues at the time, so women were too scary for me!
Today I really cherish the new friendships I have made in AA- here and in the rooms. I do think that sponsorship should be based on mutual need, not the sex of the people though. I also very much agree that WE are all here to walk this road together- gay, straight, man or woman- we need ALL recovering peeps to complete our world!

Shadow said...

i've learnt, since becoming sober, i can bugger up just as nicely sober, as i could when i was drunk. scary!!!

and i also find i easier to relate to men than to women....

Namenlosen Trinker said...

Great stuff! I'm going to post my own thoughts—not all that different from yours—on my blog. Keep an eye out for it, LOL!

Anonymous said...

i have to disagree with a female haveing a male sponser and vise versa. Been there done that and the closeness becomes sexual it seems at one time or another, That really hurts the other persons spouse when her man sleeps with their sponser or spends their time with their sponsee of the oppisite sex and leaves their home partner in the dark. How about them cookies. I am leaving my mate becaue=se of this reason. I am home while he is out with his aa buddies when he is nor working and now he has a female sponsee that will just make things worse

gabrielle said...

Hey. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS. I am early sobriety and trying to stick with the women, but i just like men as well and i get along with them and i have a bisexual history (so i think well what... do i just sit by myself, i am attracted to both sexes) Yay. I have this osm in my head clucking her tongue at me, and i have a raging fire of newcomer libido and i am getting turned on by just about anything right now. and starting to think i need to shut myself away for a year or two Thank GOD for your blog :)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog! Just stumbled upon it. I've been sober in AA for a few years now. Maybe a lot of it depends on where you go to AA? But I live in a large metropolitan area and there are definitely 13 steppers...and I've definitely seen vulnerable female {and male!} newcomers turned off from AA and or drunk because of this issue. I think we have an obligation to look out for people. With a little time and recovery under our belts, I think most of us figure this stuff out. I've NEVER referred to or thought of my sponsees as "pigeons", I've never even heard that?!...I do give sponsees different suggestions based on age/experience/sobriety re: men. The 50 y.o. divorced woman who is 6 mos sober is likely to get waaay different suggestions from me than the wide-eyed 25 whom I do say "stay away from the men." Do they listen? Hahahah, never. I think what we're talking about with newcomers is "overrelation." Romance and finance take a lot of people out early on. And btw, I'm super hot and have no interest in AA guys in general--so nothing like that going on. Again, think this is all relative.

Anonymous said...

Keep coming back.

In my experience, men stick with men and women stick with women. We have enough problems.

If I, as a man, spend too much time with a newer women, I
(1) do her a disservice by distracting her from focusing on building a network of women around her;
(2) set a terrible example for those newcomer men and women (who may have slightly less noble motives) and make these conversations look like they are okay;
(3) sabotage the women from grabbing her up and pulling her into their herd; and
(4) act out on my own arrogance and ego (specifically fooling myself into thinking that my motives are pure).

The most I will do is to push her into a group of women and/or kindly suggest to those women to grab her up. The rest is out of my hands.

There are plenty of newcomer men out there who need the attention of more experienced AA men. Why should they be ignored?

This whole analysis changes if there are no women in the area (which is unheard of nowadays).

Also, for those of us who do choose to hook up with new women, we are choosing to bottom feed. Real men build character in AA and do the next right thing until God chooses to place the right relationship in our lives.

I don't come to AA for a job, for a date, or for used furniture. If I do, I am surely playing with my priorities. And of course, as we all have heard before, whatever I place in front of my sobriety, I will lose first.

Good luck.

Mary Christine said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you so much for your absolutely correct comment. You are correct.

If you actually read my post, you would see that I agree with you, but you didn't.

Did you know that snarky comments like the sarcastic "keep coming back" are some of the things that our detractors hate us for? And with good reason.

And this is why this blog is going to soon hit the dust. It seems folks in AA don't have the ability to read and think critically. Or listen to anything that asks questions or has experiences that don't fit into slogans.

Yeah, I will keep coming back. I have for over 26 years, sober all that time, and I will continue. But I will continue to hang around with the winners who can actually think.

Mary Christine said...

I just deleted another comment that told me to go to the bar and behave badly. And if I didn't like what they wrote I could go whine about it - no, I can delete it. It's my blog.

Can anyone read anything that isn't a slogan?

I shared my OWN experience, strength, and hope in this post. And guess what? If you don't like it just click the little "x" in the corner and go away.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What I have noticed is that new comers to AA are not there because they are the picture of health, emotional soundness and mental vitality. Typically they are sick damaged people. What kind of man is attracted to sick women ? A man who is sick. Do not be fooled by predators. Only the losers sleep with sick newcomers.

No truly sane sober man gets involved with new comer women because they don't have to. There are plenty of healthy women that they can date.

Tommy O'C said...

I have long-term sobriety but a deepening resentment about the "two AAs." I honestly believe that women should just branch off totally and create their own parallel AA. Dr. Bob didn't believe women should even be admitted. I can't glance at a woman in AA without being treated like a predator.

Taken to its logical extreme (and logical extreme is an oxymoron when it comes to AA dogma), women should see only female therapists, female doctors, female lawyers, female CPAs, female priests and so on.

Many of the "mama cougars" in the movement are in no danger of getting "hit on" by even the sickest male newcomers. I heard one such woman tonight talk about the "legion of women" she has in her phone to contact. So sucks to me as a man? There is a deep, deep contradiction that the "hand of AA" will always be available to me--as long as the hand that reaches back is of the same gender. Unless, of course, you're gay. Then it's perfectly acceptable to have same-gender sponsor-sponsee arrangements.

My most meaningful relationships have been with women. I was very close to my mom as an only child and have found few men that I can honestly talk to about the things that are interfering with my sobriety. but that's where the sayings come in, isn't it? Yes, this is a golden opportunity for me to expand my male-male relationship skills. But most of the yucks in the Program are men (and women) who I would not have drunk with--more than once, anyway.

I'm trying to find my way but feel as though AA is just high school all over again. 70+ years and THIS is the best treatment for alcoholism? God help me.

Anonymous said...

Lady, what part of men with the men, and women with the women don't you understand?

Anonymous said...

Have you drank yet dummy?

Mary Christine said...

Hey anonymous, where did you find that piece of "wisdom" in AA literature?

And yes, I am still sober since July 24, 1984.