High school breaks down into groups and cliques. So do churches. So does any organization no matter how committed it thinks it is to unity, the diversity is there. Either this diversity is celebrated, or silenced in favor of a majority rule.
I grew up attending a Catholic Church and my questions, starting with why women can’t be priests, and including why dinosaurs didn’t exist in the Bible, are questions I still hold til this day. Taking an Egyptology course and learning how the earliest Christians tore apart artifacts of ancient civilization in the “name of God” saddens me. Whenever anyone starts doing anything in the name of God, all personal responsibility goes out the window.
Maybe that is the primary dysfunction of AA. Whether you make a potato or a doorknob your god, if all your actions are sanctioned by some external force what need is there to take any personal responsibility? Might as well throw 9 steps out after the 3rd one. What an American concept and institution, though, AA is. Not quite a church, not quite a cult, not quite a fast food place; a Fast Thought Place?
Conformity = Majority Rule
I think there is a certain sadness when a group cannot change or evolve or expects individual members not to change to evolve. The first sequence with bringing diverse groups with different beliefs together, to me, is a strong example of how people can gather and belong to one group and hold many different beliefs.
Majority rule ruins everything. Not money, although no one catches the irony that the one-and-only John D. Rockefeller gave Bill Wilson that advice. What is an altruistic group like the benevolent brothers of AA doing hanging out with the Rockefellers?
My ex is still a practicing member of this fellowship of isolationists. Reading the “conference approved literature” and closed off to the idea that I may miss the people I met there- most of whom cut you off once you leave the confines of the commune. To question or doubt the authority of this institution equals social suicide. Conformity equals majority rule.
I was yelled at the last time my ex called me. Telling me “you think you’re so smart” and “you’re so smug” whenever I tried to say something. He talked quickly in long run-on sentences taking no pauses, no breaths, as most conversations require for any back-and-forth. I felt myself on a boat, trying to get to starboard side, every time I start to walk the boat tilts and I fall back, smack against the edge. “Don’t interrupt me, I hate it when you do that. You always do that.”
I try to be patient talking to someone who, twenty-one years after quitting drinking alcohol goes around daily identifying himself as an alcoholic. Imagine being stuck with that label the rest of your life. We are arguing about the best treatment for the child we share together; he is against sticking with her with more labels. Projection much? Labels are for jars, for jams, jellies, and preserves. Can we preserve labels for only ones we choose for ourselves? Why choose alcoholic, for over two-decades? Are you ever recovered?
If you’re never recovered, it gives a freedom or permission to continue to verbally abuse your ex over the phone. I hadn’t cried like this in awhile. I used to think it’s impossible to fix me. I cry at the drop of a dime. My brain has a running tape loop of words like “stupid” and “damaged” and there was a time I thought this former relationship was normal. There was something wrong with me. I know now, I can never talk to someone like he talks to me. What’s in it for me if I sink that low?
If you have permission from the Holiest of conference approved literature, however, you can pretty much get away with anything and blame it on your alcoholism. So powerful, cunning, and baffling.
You Can’t Sit Here
Irony is my memory of this kind of crying. Of being told being smart is smug. I remember a so-called treatment facility expert telling me I was “over-intellectualizing” for pointing out the sexism of the Big Book. For pointing out if sexism is damaging in society it can’t be useful in treatment.
It’s easy to think power is derived from rendering something, or someone else, powerless. It’s essentially the same as gaslighting yourself. If you can gaslight someone else, though, it’s a game of survival and control that the other person doesn’t know they’re playing. It’s involuntary. Should I apologize to him for making him yell at me?
There is something dangerous when you can’t ask questions of your group, and are ostracized for doing so. When my ex called back with an apology, it was sadly predictable. More along the lines of a I’m sorry I did that but I did that (yelled at you) because you made me yell at you. No wonder I was depressed.
No one wants to be left out. No one wants their ideas to be shot down, mocked, ridiculed on the sole measure that it doesn’t fit into the “social norms” of the group.
No wonder I took out my frustrations on him when we were together. Stupidly, I did all the things AA tells you will happen when you’re powerless. Partly I did them because it was the only powerful tool I had to hurt him. To shame him or embarrass him. Captain AA, the perfect member, even he could’t stop me. It was passive aggressive. I could have told a whole group of people at a meeting he’s so full of shit.
He makes me feel stupid, I hardly eat, I have to look good for him. I am so afraid of being unattractive. I can’t be fat. He doesn’t have a sponsor. He never talks about the awful things he did only crashing on a friend’s couch and getting some DUIs. Do you want to hear what he left out? I could have, but I didn’t. Because what good does it do? I hurt myself instead. I was stupid, past tense, but at the time it was necessary to maintain that illusion of control.
At the same time, my stupidity granted him sympathy. It truly sabotaged myself. I’m his burden. Get rid of me. Life would be easier to dump me. Even if I have nothing, no money, no car, no house; dump me. Even if despite his 3 DUIs he never lost his car, his job, his house. I created this. I fed into his preconceptions of victimhood. I felt so stupid.
I had to be stupid to not hear him, to not feel the pain. To not confront him. I can’t have the body of a 21 year old forever. I can’t figure out the future if I’m haunted by my past. I can’t change AA and I’m angry that my so-called life partner I have a child with doesn’t think sexism is a big problem. I can’t change him. The problem was, I was trying to. The problem is, I take no pleasure in other people’s pain. If someone like me had explained to me the problem with the group I considered part of my identity was hurting them- I’d defend the person I loved- not the group.
Only, I felt powerless over him, the situation; he owned the house, had a car, a job and I did not. I was at a community college unsure if some jobs might be impossible to get even with a degree because I had a record. When you feel powerless you will do whatever you can to try to re-create, at least, the illusion of control.
I’m not powerless and never was, yet he may still be. Powerless to question authority, not me- but AA. And I suspect people take that out on others. It’s a theory. It might be why AA members are so angry and miserable if anyone else asserts authority. Perhaps, instead of battling AA they can declare victory on others. Being told you’re stupid, or incapable, it hurts. Being told no one cares hurts. Being told other women don’t complain therefore you shouldn’t, that hurts. Everything about being in AA hurt. I tried to fix things after I left, yet it doesn’t want to be fixed.
The drama is a perpetual high school. I’ll be the loner, the scapegoat, the one who doesn’t conform. And I will get bullied because of it. I’d rather think for myself, though, and that’s powerful. People want to be confident. I don’t think my ex has that. And wish he’d leave AA, but I don’t think he can. It’s too powerful, cunning, and baffling. How do you resist? Step 13 is now: Resistance is Futile.