In this final installment I bring up a few points and anecdotal pieces of information about my life based on thoughts that have crossed my mind recently. I have met so many great people this past year while sharing my story and learning more about the harms Alcoholics Anonymous have caused to too many people— including myself.
What parts of the program bother you besides the sexism and religion?
The 9th step says: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or hurt others.” But what it really means is it’s ok to lie about anything to anyone if telling the truth will fuck you over. Right there it cancels out this program that DEMANDS “rigorous honesty” from a member.
Also, if Alcoholics Anonymous itself, the organization, was practicing Step 9 there would be no sexism and the religious parts would be scaled down to an open, inclusive language of no Gods, but just Higher Powers and secular terms like thoughts not prayers, reliance on the program and members, not God. This is not the case, in AA the atheist must tolerate religion. The religious do not have to tolerate atheism because the Big Book openly mocks agnostics and atheists for being vain and foolish.
It also bugs me when members say alcoholism is an obsession and compulsion of the mind, and they say in a meeting, “I don’t think about drinking today. The obsession is gone!” But right there, that’s not true, they just thought about drinking saying that.
Were you ever 13 stepped?
Depends how one perceives “being 13 stepped.” I was no Pollyanna type when I started AA in 2003. I’d just escaped an abuser and ran into the arms of a pothead who didn’t mind if I smoked pot as long as I didn’t drink. When reality irritated me, I voluntarily committed myself into psych wards, which I did at least three times in 2003. When the last hospital denied me admittance for lack of insurance, I was sent to a scary, old asylum in downtown Cleveland.
Old mental hospitals are like jails, with crayons. The receptionist was kind to me because I wasn’t drooling at the mouth and talking to my fingernails. She gave me the largest tub of crayons and markers and even a boom box with an electrical cord. I was privileged because I wasn’t crazy, and I befriended another local man there. We met up after we were free to drink. Around this time, I met my future boyfriend in AA. He was the friendliest guy. I remember coming home and thinking AA was full of Stepford zombies. No one can be that smiling and genuinely happy.
I was definitely a liar and cheater at this point. I had no business being in relationships. But the pothead seemed to adore my life of crisis and nervous breakdowns. In July of 2004, I started my sober time in AA and dumped the pothead.
I tried to woo the friendly AA guy by telling him my exploits with another AA guy hoping to inspire jealousy. This sleazy AA guy had given me five bucks when I left for vacation, so I wouldn’t be broke. Friendly guy knew Sleazy AA guy also took me back to his apartment a couple times, the second time to celebrate my 30 days sober. I wanted revenge sex- sex that proved the past abuse didn’t scar me and I could cut loose and have fun. But in Sleazy’s head, I was newcomer-fresh meat. I thought I was a player.
I didn’t see anything wrong with this AA love triangle. How else could I blot out abuse horrors? I wasn’t able to overeat, my gallbladder was removed at 19, and I had stomach aches every day. Women said stick with the women, but the women there were Stepford wives and didn’t understand what the word “sexism” meant when I told them the Big Book wasn’t just old, it was about men. I was twenty two years old, with a hyperactive PTSD brain, and an inclination to be brutally honest at every AA meeting in order to never drink again. Wesley was 17.5 years older than me. But this was ok! In AA- give up everything you used to be, change everything but your name, and surrender to the program! These non-professionals didn’t realize that mentally running away to deal with abuse is not healthy for people… But it was ENCOURAGED in AA.
In my new AA life, I wasn’t raped- I had a part in all that. I changed my whole story to be applauded for it, which confused the hell out of me. I thought not thinking of myself as a victim was the same thing as admitting I had a part in my rape— that’s a really fucked up thing I learned from women in AA.
I gave private information publically to save my soul. My new friends knew I was bisexual and didn’t think much of it if I hung out with mostly men. Hell, most of the people in the meetings were men anyway, except for the Saturday Morning Survivors meeting which was the woman’s meeting that only read the woman’s stories in the back in the Big Book- how Feminist of them!
I admit all of this social drama to you, the reader, because I’m not ashamed anymore. But in AA, a girl making questionable decisions with men is not well-regulated. A motherly type woman might lecture you to knock it off, but in the end they don’t tell you these men are using you. They only blame you. The friendly AA guy- Wesley*- became my boyfriend and I dumped one sponsor because she told me not to date anyone seriously. (But flings are ok!) This hypocrite-woman met her husband in AA, so with Wesley’s approval, I got two new sponsors who adored Wesley and blessed our relationship. I was around 60 days or more sober at this point, so relapse was not an option.
Soon after, I befriended the gay male clique and their “fag hag” (an actual loving term for female groupies of gay males) lady friends at a Monday night meeting. Timmy* became my male gay sponsor, encouraging me to embrace the chance I was a closeted Lesbian who drank too much to stuff down my inherent gayness. After a miscarriage, I was pregnant again in three months, and in July of 2006 Wesley and I had a daughter. I was now a mom of two; my son from my first marriage was entering kindergarten that year. A year or so later, the gay sponsor decided he loved me and during this time I refused to leave Wesley for him, and Timmy fell into a brief but tumultuous crack habit. (Timmy had began AA after being abused as teenager by a man, and had 15 or so years sober by his early thirties before the relapse.)
Was I 13 Stepped? I probably was. Wesley had four years clean when he and I started dating. But I was pursuing him, also. He (and I to some extent) didn’t know how living with my mom and dad was not an option for me because of different mental abuses I had growing up with them. For one whole year I lived with my parents, and went to one or more meetings every day. I’m not an expert psychologist, but there was a reason why I didn’t want to be home as much as possible.
Sounds like you were just another chick willing to hook up in AA?
I could have definitely fell into the “slutty newcomer” label, even though I wasn’t as slutty as most men I met there. And I hate that word, slut, outside of stupid private bedroom talk it has no place in civil conversation. Compared to the guy who raped and beat me, the 13 stepping was not the issue. I went out with Wesley which got the other AA guys to back off.
That didn’t stop the inappropriate hitting on me completely, but if you are the “property” or “attached” to another AA guy you’d be surprised how asexual the other AA guys become towards you. A woman without a partner is a target, not someone in a relationship. But, like I said, that doesn’t stop everyone from trying to snag you up.
The fact that the general majority of AA members assume new girls are “slutty” is the big problem. And I believe this is because AA has a sexist, rapey culture that in ways that are illegal and unacceptable at work, school, or the grocery store. In AA, everyone is sick, and some are “sicker than others.” Hell, in the 12×12, it says, who’d want to be “lustful enough to rape” as though rape was just as symptom or a character defect. Just because I proactively, defensively embraced my sexuality doesn’t mean I had to hook up in AA. I was in my PTSD flight or fight— mentally running away from painful abuse memories.
If I wasn’t angry, defensive, and running away mentally from the rape-trauma, I doubt I would have been strong enough to fight off 13 stepping. The smallest tiniest amount of affection from someone I would confuse as sincere even if it wasn’t. So even though I was belligerent and dated Wesley anyway, I was still in the worst mental and emotional place to be re-traumatized. So in this way, I’m thankful I connected to Wesley and was less victimized in AA than I could have been.
Other people who’ve been abused are going to be susceptible to being hit on or worse. The younger and more vulnerable especially. And especially ones who are “struggling” to get AA, because there are sick guys and gals more than willing to “help” tutor a new person.
Isn’t it typical that people with PTSD often abuse alcohol?
It’s too common that people with PTSD issues drink or drug too much. Some isolate, others act out. I acted out a lot. I wanted to be normal, to be able to trust men again, I was in constant fight or flight with my relationship with Wesley. But we do have a good civilized relationship as exes. I only wished we had that conversation that provided closure, because I was just booted from his house and he’s been unable to talk to me about why he made such a final decision. Our daughter lives with him. I was financially dependent on him for seven years. At first, I was angry as hell I had nothing to fall back on, but it was only temporary. Three years later, I understand why we couldn’t live together, and it’s for the best.
Are there any other alcoholics in your family?
If you count a cousin of my mom’s and her father the “happy drunk” then yes. But in my immediate family, no. I have only one older brother who occasionally has a drink. I am a stereotypical self-medicating person who over-indulged. I used to be able to eat entire medium to large sized pizzas, too. Quantity over quality?
This is by no means my best writing, but I hope I brought up a few things about me that some of you didn’t know. I look forward to any comments and questions or ideas for future writings. Thank you to all of you for your continued love and support. It was hard to leave AA, but it’s been far more rewarding and healthier having done so.