” …. and to practice these principles in all of our affairs”. (The oft-overlooked second half of step 12). I am going to discuss two issues in this post:
- Hooking up in AA
- Living our program beyond sobriety
Invariably most will catch a glimpse of something interesting across the room. “Love” interests (and other more primal interests) in AA are just going to happen. Well, in mixed meetings anyway. And frankly, it is outside of the scope of AA to do much about it, other than do its level best within the 12 Traditions to put the functioning of groups ahead of individuals. For without communities of recovery, few of us stand a chance.
To look at the origins of AA, it was mostly men in the meetings. I wonder if its early effectiveness had any relationship to the minimized distractions of non-mixed-gender meetings?
We have a men-only meeting in our community. It is a great meeting. There is a lot of sobriety there… long term. And a large number of guys find help there. It is extremely brotherly and supportive. The results appear stronger than other meetings in town.
Could it be that there isn’t the conscious and subconscious distractions of females in the room? We men are a shallow lot. Put just one female in the room and most of us start stylin, don’t we? C’mon guys… admit it. Most of us will behave differently… even if it is just minutely.
Furthermore, in our community, many meetings are attended by groups of women from the local women-only recovery houses. Many of these same meetings also give out monthly sobriety chips. Well guess what? A “Parade of Chips” has emerged! People are called to the front to receive their chip for monthly sobriety milestones. And what do we do when we are called to the front to be noticed publicly at a busy mixed-gender meeting? We put it on! Don’t we? We dress up, doll-up, push up, squeeze in, and clip-clop in our stilettos up the aisle…. don’t we? We are being noticed so we better be lookin good!
The question that malingers in my mind is, “How much value, really, is there in this whole process”? And furthermore, “At a few weeks or months sober, when our emotions and self-esteem are still all over the place, are we really mature enough to handle this amount of attention… especially from the opposite gender who are just as messed up as we are”?
So these are just some of the questions in my mind about how wisely AA functions in my community. And of course, there is the big one… relationships with others in early recovery? How wise are they.
Well first off, as far as I can see, there is nothing in the AA literature that gives direction on love relationships in early recovery. The founders of AA were all married and appeared to remain that way. So perhaps under that cultural climate, it was simpler.
I suppose what I am saying is that a large number of the relationships I have witnessed between people in early recovery have been a disaster. In some cases, have ended in violence, restraining orders, and a whole, whole, whoooooole lot of complication and pain.
Again, it is not AA’s position to condone or resist these behaviours. And perhaps I am not one to speak as I was in a relationship when I showed up in the rooms and am now married the same wonderful lady. And although she doesn’t drink, she is not “one of us”. She just one day prior to us meeting decided that for health reasons to not drink… and she stopped and stayed stopped.
Maybe my point is this; In my AA community, there appears to be a lot of irresponsibility with relationships. Many people sober up and get their life back on track to a large degree, but behave in a non-recovering fashion in their love relationships.
‘Morality’ is not something we hear discussed in the rooms. Yet, what is the outcome of the fluid and free nature of relationships in our community? Frankly, only a little better than when we were still drinking. There are still heart breaks, betrayals, complicated breakups, jealousies, unwanted pregnancies, abuses, stalking, gossip, law suits, and fatherlessness/motherlessness for the innocent children involved.
There is no easy answer to the challenges I have written about. I simply do my best to encourage other men to, in a very traditional sense, “act like men”. Take responsibility for your actions, especially as husbands and fathers, and if you are going to apply the second half of step 12 anywhere, apply it to your love and family relationships!
Don’t toy with the hearts, minds, and bodies of the women who come in all messed up and hurt. Of course they may come on to you! The last guy in their active-alcoholic life may very well have mistreated her heinously. Even a guy with a few weeks sober will appear to be a safe harbour of and beacon of hope for many of women…. and vice-versa.
This may not be a clear-cut AA issue, but it is a clear cut Chaz issue and I carry this message frequently in our community. To me, a good program of recovery expresses itself most vividly in our relationships.