Challenging my AA: All of our affairs

” …. 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.




About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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19 Responses to Challenging my AA: All of our affairs

  1. Debby says:

    Well said, as usual, Chaz. I hope many read this and take heed.

    • Chaz says:

      Posting the thoughts that bounce around my head helps me make sense of them. Helps me sort out what are healthy concerns and what are petty judgements and other unhealthy thoughts and feelings. Hopefully others benefit too. Bet this topic bears some meaning on why residential treatment programs like yours are one gender or the other eh? I know it was for the place I went years ago. Imagine mixing genders? Would be a whole new level of complex…. and am sure it is plenty complex already… no?

      • Debby says:

        Funny you say that about mixing the genders in residential programs as we whole heartedly agree. There are some ARC’s in the US that include women. I cannot imagine. My husband tells the men there are 5 top reasons for relapse: 1. women, 2. money 3. alcohol 4. drugs (specifically crack) 5. women. Yes, women make the list twice!

        • Chaz says:

          Lol…. I can only imagine. I remember when we were in residential treatment and we went to the community centre gym. Most guys couldn’t wait to get there to see and hopefully interract with women. It was against the rules to talk to women there but many did anyway. My point simply being how distracting it was to mix genders, even for a short while. I am not sure what the whole answer is but highlighting the fact that relationships can complicate early recovery will continue to be part of my message.

          • Debby says:

            I’ve heard someone say get a pet for a year. Then wait another year before trying a relationship. 😀

            • Chaz says:

              Yes…. that is advice I agree with. Many have never been responsible in caring for anyone or anything. A pet is far easier to manage than a love relationship. A gold fish would be an excellent entry point. 🙂

  2. Heidi says:

    Chaz- Wisdom for sure. I agree. Was mentally flipping through the ‘early sobriety’ relationships I’ve witnessed as I read. It’s not a good idea. I would hope that’s one of the topics most sponsors deal with, however unsuccessfully. I’ve been accused of ‘misunderstanding’ those I mentor whenever they start flirting with disaster in meetings. Find just one good reason why someone still working through the Steps the first time around needs a relationship on top of their current work load!

    For the same reason, really, I discourage geographical cures, diets, rash decisions and a host of other natural escapisms. We addicts want to numb and for most of those relationships that sprout up, numbing is the least of the side-effects.

    “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.” No kidding! This is one of the areas of recovery that fascinates me. Without applying the Steps to our personal relationships, do we really have recovery? Clean and sober insanity is still insane, isn’t it? I really do believe that the 12 Steps properly applied, cover this part of our lives just as well as any other….

    Good topic. Thank you. Wonderful to read your thoughts.

    • Chaz says:

      Yes… agreed… sober insanity is still insanity. Yet, in AA, members are free to be sober and insane if they so choose.

      I temper my position on this topic with the narrow scope AA keeps. This narrow scope is one of the things that has kept AA alive. They have not tried (anymore) to become all things to all people. Their literature records many of the failures in early AA when they went too broad in their scope. So this is a hard-won tradition.

      Yet, this topic still has meaning as evidenced by many of the tragic relationship failures that hurt many more than just the two starry-eyed lovers (soon to be ex-lovers).

      I hear sponsors and old-timers often recommend not starting a relationship for at least a year of sobriety and to shy away from relationships with others in recovery. But of course in practice it is entirely different.

      So I suppose in saying this, it would seem AA is doing its part, which is a very limited one.

      It just breaks my heart to see people sign up for such catastrophe in so many cases.

      Thanks for adding to the dialogue Heidi!


  3. Caddo Veil says:

    Wow, very impressive, Nephew. You are a wiseman. God bless you and your family abundantly–love, Auntie Caddo

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Auntie….I didnt get sober to continue managing relationships badly so this is a reason I carry this message and why it is so important to me. Most of all, future generations need good role models. This is really close to my heart, perhaps given that my alcoholic father taught me how to be a lousy husband first time around. Not to sound blaming, but I seemed to have picked up on many attitudes and behaviours I never thought I would.

      Thanks again for your encouragment!


      • Caddo Veil says:

        Sweetie, I know how that goes–it’s not “blaming”, it’s an unfortunate fact that we model what we grew up with/in. When God isn’t driving my bus, I’m quite apt to hear my mother’s voice–and it’s an ugly, unloving sound. It’s not just embarrassing–it’s hurtful to both the innocent person I’m spewing on, as well as me. I have great confidence in you!

  4. eddiered says:

    Thanks a lot for your post. I think this is a serious topic that is not discussed enough in the rooms. We say a lot that “you shouldn’t get into a relationship in early recovery” but we don’t often talk about why…or at least not often enough in my opinion. If we talk about the problem and the consequences and WHY it might be a bad idea rather than just set out rules…I think we would all have much more of an understanding. I got sober with the help of a place called New Life House. Check out the site if you are looking for help. New Life House – A Structured Sober Living

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Eddie…. thanks, will take a look at your link.

      Yes, the “why” really needs to be emphasized. In my experience, the why is mainly that most of us have proven by our unmanageability of life that we are not currently capable of living life on life’s terms, how on earth then can we add the pressures of a relationship to this as well?

      Yet, I do not see that this will stop any time soon. We just tend to do this. We kid ourselves we can handle it. And some of us can… and who are we to say who can and can’t? So it is a tricky thing.

      Again, my heart is mainly for the kids that are affected by the parent who blows up another relationship and affects them.

      Thanks for popping by.



  5. early sobriety relationships are seldom lasting, from my observation. good post Chaz

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks for stopping in Louise.

      My experience is the same, yet they happen. Best we can do so far is carry the message and try to protect any innocent people affected, especially children.

      I was recently close to two very tragic early-recovery relationship disasters. Against all advice of sponsors and those who had walked the path before.

  6. I was 11 months sober when I met my now husband. He was 2 weeks sober then. It worked for us, and sobriety lasted for both of us as well. But you know what they say about relationships in the rooms in early sobriety? (I heard this in a meeting just tonight) that if you get involved with someone (you will make good use) of your sponsor.

    We usually suggest that you wait for at least a year to get involved. Both the men and the women. Our women are very wary of men in recovery. For all the reasons you outlined above. There is clear delineation between the women and the men. There are clear cut women’s meetings just for them. And there is a HUGE stress on sponsors, grand sponsors and sponsees, most of our women follow the New York Sobriety model. They steer clear of men in recovery.
    We don’t count days in most meetings here. And we only give (3,6,and9) month chips in AA in Montreal, unless it is special circumstances. So the women don’t glam up and cock tease from the front of the room. They are more demure than that.

    No self respecting man in this city would ever consider defiling the sobriety of a woman in the rooms. They would not stand for it. I don’t see much dating in the rooms where I go to meetings. The men and women keep to themselves. And if you are lucky enough to crack into a real friendship with a woman in the rooms (outside the room) you are terribly lucky. The women here are strictly “by the book: girls.

    That’s why we hear stories about the 13th step. people who get involved with newcomers, just to fuck with them and to get laid. Over the last ten years we have seen a marked change in how the men treat women (on the English side) of meetings.

    If you are getting sober to get your dick wet, you really need to check your motives. I’ve heard speakers over and over tell horror stories of how they get into and lost really big, relationships in sobriety. Penis thinkers never get it – they usually go out and drink over that. Stay away from relationships until you get your head screwed on correctly and that will take as long as it takes any good sponsor will tell you the truth and if they don’t then they aren’t really good sponsors are they?

    So I have a question for you… Do you have a sponsor that you are talking to on a DAILY basis? These topics are things I would talk to my sponsor about.


    • Chaz says:

      Hey Jeremy…. thanks as always for your rich replies.

      Lets start with the last thing first… yes, I have a sponsor, yes I have discussed these issues with him, no, not daily. He in fact does not participate in chips as he sees it as outside of the AA tradtions. I remember that about him before he was my sponsor. We were at the biggest, rowdiest meeting in town and he was asked if he would give out sobriety chips. He very respecftully declined. I admire him for that. He knew who he was, and what he believed for his program.

      He too, in fact, is married to a woman he met in the program. It was after a time of sobriety… years for both of them. And yourselves as well as you noted. Not saying it can’t work, but I think we have both seen that probabilities are low if it happens in the early part of the process.

      I admire the level of commitment and discipline in the program in your area Jeremy. Sounds like it is significantly influenced by some who are taking their program very seriously.

      I think one of the challenges we face here in the burbs is that we have a large drug recovery community. Many of the recovery houses have mandatory meetings and they send many addicts to AA. Not sure why, but so many of them do not seem to respect the traditions of AA. Maybe they don’t see the relevance because they are not actually one of our type. The last thing I would want is an us and them type dynamic. But it appears to me that where a group is heavily influenced by alcoholics versus addicts, there is greater adherence to the traditions of AA and some of the more typical suggestions such as don’t rush into relationships.

      New York model? Hmmm, hadn’t heard of it. I’m curious. Can you tell me more?

      And I take your nudgings wisely my friend. I do recognize that these are issue to work out on an individual basis. I simply find I can get a wide sampling of thoughts when I blog issues for discussion. It also helps me see things about my self and my own thinking…. particularly flaws… when I type it out, read it, re-read it, and discuss it like this.

      For instance, the other day when I wrote my “the why doesnt matter” post was an eye opener for me. I realized I have been complicating my AA involvement and setting expectations that are not realistic. So this whole process is therapeutic.

      Thanks for being part of it.



  7. Debbie says:

    “To me, a good program of recovery expresses itself most vividly in our relationships.” What a wise and thoughtful statement, Chaz.. Thank you for writing out your thoughts and experiences, to help us all! God bless you!

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