Predatory Behavior Within the Fellowship

By Heather B.

I initially found AA roughly 20 years ago, filled with trepidation and with zero self-esteem.  Much to my surprise, I had been diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis after seeking psychiatric help for what I thought was depression.  Of course, it wasn’t that simple.  I knew I was an alcoholic, but since drugs were the current problem, I went to NA.  I was 30 years old and thin to the point of illness.  Years of subsisting on crystal meth and nothing else – especially food and sleep – had taken a toll, but I was young enough to bounce back. Most NA meetings were filled with men whose sexual overtones before and after the meetings made me uncomfortable and created so much anxiety that I began to dread going. I tried different meetings, but the same people were there.  My therapist suggested AA.  I took her advice and never returned to NA.  Twenty years later, after many false starts and relapses, I am approaching 7 years of continuous sobriety. I am incredibly grateful for the rooms in which I have found support, laughter, and unconditional acceptance. 

In 1999, I was young and freshly divorced from my sexually abusive husband, and sober for the first time.  I had social anxiety and hated speaking up, especially in meetings.  I was full of self-hatred and, therefore, vulnerable. I didn’t yet have the confidence or the tools for self-soothing and part of my drinking/using typically involved relationships with men. I found an established women’s meeting and was warned about new relationships and steering clear of the opposite sex.  One young newcomer described an older man who had volunteered to be her sponsor and offered her a place to stay.  The seasoned women in the group explained why this was a bad idea and told us that AA predators were known as “pigeon fuckers” and to steer clear of them.

As I often did, I ignored the wisdom that was offered to me.  I hated the “no new relationships” rule and, feeling shitty about myself, fell back into familiar patterns of external validation.  While I didn’t date men in the program, I did date men who drank.  Not surprisingly, I relapsed.  In fact, every relapse I’ve had accompanied a romantic/sexual relationship.  The men I dated didn’t know (though they quickly learned) I was an alcoholic and using them to make myself feel better – a quicker fix than doing the emotional labor suggested within the program.  In the middle of my second attempt at treatment, I was asked to leave after getting involved with another patient.  The minute a man showed interest, I was off and running for two reasons: the distraction and the emotional painkiller. 

What I know now is that self-esteem is an ongoing, hard-won battle that never ends, and that real self-confidence can only come from within.  Today I have a relationship with someone in the program and together we’ve helped get a couple of agnostic meetings off the ground.  Still, we rarely attend meetings together and I consciously choose to use the tools – recovery and otherwise – at my disposal when I feel shitty rather than looking to the relationship for validation. 

From where I’m standing now, roughly 20 years later, I see the same predatory behavior I was warned about in the 1990’s and it still needs to be addressed.  When someone with a significant amount of sobriety seeks out a romantic/sexual relationship with someone new to the program and/or sobriety, it’s referred to as “13th stepping”.  It’s predatory because, at best, it takes advantage of another’s vulnerability and interferes with their recovery.  At worst, it compromises the other person’s sobriety, leading them back to alcohol and drugs. 

The program is often the first (and sometimes only) lifeline that many of us find.  Many women, including myself, arrive carrying the weight of sexual trauma. Now we have to get sober in an environment filled with men we don’t know.  Imagine, on top of this, getting befriended by someone who pretends to help – offers you a lifeline – but only wants to sleep with you.  It is irresponsible and reprehensible to manipulate a newcomer in this way.  If we are to carry the message to those who still suffer, it’s up to us to honor, not take advantage of, the vulnerability that newcomers carry through the door.  

Earlier this year, a man from the program was exhibiting condescension and disrespect to women both in and out of the rooms.  Despite being verbally warned and challenged on several occasions, his behavior escalated and eventually, after threatening me with physical harm, he showed up at a meeting with a weapon intending to inflict harm.  My male partner stepped in to protect me and was assaulted.  The man was charged with battery and went to jail; the case is still working its way through the legal system. This example is extreme, I know, but it illustrates why not everyone feels, or is, safe in the rooms of AA.

I think the rooms are in need of an overhaul in the way this behavior and other predatory actions are handled if they are to remain welcoming to women.  Problems need to be addressed before they escalate to the point that women are afraid to attend meetings. I suspect that some people, when faced with this behavior, look the other way and dismiss it as “none of my business.”  Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the business of all of us. Our mission is to welcome and assist every person coming through our doors who wants to stop drinking and drugging and pursue a sober life. If we are to keep the rooms of AA a safe space for sharing and honesty, then we must also be firmly opposed to any threat to that safety.  It is completely acceptable for a group to decide that an individual is no longer welcome.  Groups should exercise this right if necessary, so that intolerance of predatory behavior becomes the new norm.

Of course, women’s meetings afford an environment that feels both emotionally and physically safer.  Having recently helped to start one, I can say from personal experience that I find an intimacy there – with women willing to share more openly and at a deeper level – than I find at mixed meetings.  For those of us grappling with sexual or physical trauma, these may be the only rooms in which we are comfortable sharing.  I know it was difficult, initially, for me to relate to the men who displayed huge egos when I was so far down in the gutter.  I was also feeling the weight of my own guilt in a world where women are expected, above all, to care for others. Still, I don’t think complete segregation is the answer.  Limiting ourselves to 50% or less of the recovery population seems antithetical to benefiting from those characteristics that we all share.  Someone much smarter than I once said that connection is the opposite of addiction.

Predation is a serious problem within our community, the program that has saved us from jail, insanity, and death.  Therefore, it will take the community as a whole to change this culture.  We need to talk about this topic in meetings.  It should be discussed with sponsees of both genders from the outset.  And men, I implore you, do not let this behavior go unchecked.  When you see another man preying on newcomers, say something.  Do not let the solution to this problem rest solely with women.  Take a stand and protect the women in your recovery circles so that everyone is safe and has access to the gifts of sobriety. 


About the Author, Heather B. 

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  1. AK in SF October 5, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

     

    Never, ever allow anyone, whatever gender, put a hand where that hand does not belong.

    Some members have charisma and become unofficial ‘stars’ of a particular meeting. Someone like that put his hand on my friend’s leg during a couple of meetings. The secretary refused to take her seriously when she reported this. Mr. Charisma relapsed soon after.

    Boundary bandits often test limits in subtle ways. Tell newcomers that anything that feels icky is icky and trust their guts.

    AA is not a dating service. AA is also also not an ATM or Air BnB.

    My home meeting attracts a wide variety of people. One or two live in the bushes of a nearby park, attend meetings every so often, and cadge change.

    I let the male old timers sort out when and how to help the fellows from the park.

    However, the most brilliant con artist I ever saw in the rooms did not frequent AA meetings.

    He hit on our CODA meeting.

     

  2. Rose F. September 12, 2017 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    I have been sober for 48 years and never had a problem with predatory men mainly because the men I dated in AA , I did not like. However, Some years ago , I moved to a small town where what happens gets around quickly. I found that a male member 0f AA was having sex with two women alternating between the two. One member had long time sobriety, another perhaps six years.  Both were older, vulnerable, and lonely. The one woman I knew best was devastated by the “one night stand.” Her sponsor (a male) basically told her to move on. The predator dumped both women in short order leaving them enemies with one another. He later left AA and looked for women in super markets, etc.

    Recently, I had a long deep talk with a younger woman who is outstandingly beautiful and attends the program. She dresses conservatively. She told me that some men who hug her let their hands slip down over her hips and buttocks.  She absolutely did not know how to respond to this behavior, fearing the outcome. I spoke to her in no uncertain terms that “no” is a complete sentence.  She still feared the outcome  especially with married men whose wives she often knew. We finally decided together to set a distance boundary before the event happened, and definitely stop the hugs.

    I once watched a newcomer(six months) sitting with her dog at an outside meeting. She was stunning. A man with some years under his belt moved his chair closer and attempted to pet her dog. She stood up and firmly moved her chair to another location without having to say a word.

  3. Brenda July 24, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Sham on you! AA gave me my life back, a better one! I will forever be grateful to AA!

  4. Michael January 19, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

     Certainly this has been an issue for decades in AA. Why? Well, what better situation could a predatory individual ask for? No requirement to provide a real name, no address, no contact information, no ID, no photographs taken, etc.
    And additionally, absolutely no system of accountability or oversight exists.

    A profound and widespread misinterpretation of Traditions 2 and 3 exists,
    and that is what causes the disregard for the safety of the members.

    Tradition 2.
    For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority
    a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

    It is interpreted in my region that nobody has any authority to
    intervene when a harmful or exploitive situation is occurring, and
    that “god” is going to look out for the everybody.

    Tradition 3.
    The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.

    It is interpreted to mean that we can’t throw anybody out of a meeting or group,
    no matter what they are doing to others.

    Back in 1979 when I started the journey elsewhere, we routinely spoke with offending individuals
    privately, and they would be banned from the group if they continued. They are not
    “thrown out of AA”, just barred from a group.

    But after I moved here, I saw so many depravities within AA that went by with everyone’s
    knowledge, and ignored it all, that I left AA. I no longer consider myself to be a member.
    How can I in good conscience be a participant
    in an organization that systematically ignores the well-being of its members like this?
    If this were a public service agency, it would be scandalous.
    If this were a sleazy bar/nightclub, it would be routine.

     

    • Claudine February 12, 2017 at 8:44 pm Reply

      Dear Michael. My name is Coco and I used to attend AA meetings. I too arrived in 1979 when it was fun and all the nuts were together – there were no straight vs gay, male vs female, specific boutique groups for lawyers, doctors, home meetings, we had one choice at night and a noon meeting during the day. I was young 19 and am grateful for what I learned while attending meetings and for those that I met on my “road to recovery”. I zigged and zagged and finally left. I believe it was the right decision. I feel that the rooms are not what they used to be and that I no longer “Want what they have”. But it does get lonely after spending more than half your life there and deciding to leave.  I no longer attend the meetings for the same reasons you stated and I am grateful that someone has had the balls to say it.I was abused in the meetings as I look back now and attracted the worst men who I attracted because of my low self esteem at the time and my loss of a father as a child. It is sad honestly to think that it still goes on. Is there an after life for those of us that have left? Meetings for People that No Longer Go to Meetings and Want to be Clean and Sober? Just curious.

      Thanks very much, C.

       

       

  5. Galen T. January 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Heather- Thank you for your brave and cogent article. Predatory behavior is a severe violation of AA traditions and principles and should not be tolerated.  Yes, there may be a few females out there who are on the make, but they are far outnumbered by the males.  In addition, male on female predation is more sinister because it is accompanied by the suggestion or even threat of violence.

    G.S.O., etc. should do more to raise awareness of the problem and of its unacceptability in the rooms.  Even so, offensive behaviors will still take place and need to be addressed at the local level.  The problem goes beyond obvious predation and includes the sorts of suggestive and repeated stares and comments that cause women to disappear from meetings.

    In my neck of the woods we have a straightforward way of handling these problems.  Men are brought in and have a friendly but firm chat with the “offender.”  I have been involved in two such situations over the last five years and found the chats effective.  If the problem persists, another conversation takes place during which the individual is presented with a choice–either cut it out or find other meetings in the area to attend.  In 25 years of frequent meeting attendance, I have not heard of any situation in which difficulties continued beyond this.

     

  6. Joe C January 10, 2017 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Thanks Heather; a good reminder. We are all responsible, men and women in our meetings to make/keep our space safe and welcoming. “Keeping meetings safe” is a periodic workshop topic at our Area and regional service gatherings. It’s important to not shy away from talking about this. You remind me and all of us that this is not “an outside issue.”

  7. Ian M January 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Heather:

    Thanks for sharing.  We have struggled with this issue in AA continually during my nearly 3 decades.  I’m glad that more people are talking about it, and I’m glad that women with actual experience like yourself are (courageously in my opinion) sharing their stories.

    I learned early on that we’re only as sick as our secrets, and by shining a light on this the situation improves in many ways.  For instance, I have to admit that my awareness and sensitivity to these issues had waned over the years – I guess that my AA circle didn’t appear to have such behaviors in it.  However, that didn’t mean that it couldn’t happen in the groups I attend.

    We had a specific discussion about it at each of our meetings and agreed that strong focus on connecting newcomers to members who people felt were ‘safe’ was a key priority.  We also agreed (including the men’s meeting) that this was not acceptable behavior, nor was it acceptable to observe it and do nothing.

    I’m glad that you made it.  I’m sorry for those who didn’t because of predatory behavior.  We all have a role to play in making AA safer.

    Ian M

    Silver Lake Study Group, Mill Creek, WA

     

  8. Kathleen January 9, 2017 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Thank you Heather for sharing this difficult topic which touches us all. Along with bonding with others that you mentioned,working for social change is another antidote to addiction. I wish you peace, Kathleen C

  9. PeterE January 9, 2017 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Why is there no mention of the recent documentary “the 13th Step?”

  10. Dale K January 8, 2017 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Heather for sharing on this much needed topic.

    AA was created with a very paternalistic attitude which reflected the society in general. The Big Book is very paternalistic. Although AA is getting better along with the norms of society, it still has a long way to go. There are many good men in AA (as reflected in previous comments).

    Having said that, men do not have the best answers for this problem. I, really, wish women would be commenting here. They have the best answers. Us men just need to listen, adhere & promote their answers.

  11. John H January 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Dear Heather,

    As someone who has been around AA for many years who is also the father of two fine young women in their early 20’s (one of whom has been the victim of harassment that required a restraining order and incarnation to resolve) I was saddened to hear of the ongoing severity of this problem which I have noted in years past but, fortunately, have not seen in the groups I attend in quite some time.

    15 or so years ago I felt I needed to take direct action myself when someone in a conventional meeting I still am a member of started to harass female members for coffee, dates, relationships, etc., both after meetings and in phone calls. A number of women privately expressed their safety concerns and since there seemed to be no clear group conscience forming I took the matter into my own hands.

    After a rather heated conversation outside the meeting on the corner of 16th and M one afternoon I informed this person that I never expected to see him at the meeting again. He left our meeting after that conversation but turned up elsewhere where, I assume, the behavior continued or took on another form. Such people never really stop. They just get moved from place to place.

    This really is a terrible problem that can, in extreme situations, take on organized, cult like, forms.

    The following two articles from 2007 detailing the notorious “Midtown AA Scandal” here in DC are amongst the most extreme examples I have seen in 30 years. Please see the links that follow:

    http://www.newsweek.com/critics-say-washington-aa-chapter-cultlike-101337

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/21/AR2007072101356.html

    Thank you for pointing out how debilitating this behavior can be and the responsibilities of both individual members and the groups themselves for the safety of all our members.

    While I would be the last person to suggest that AA should or could be the “sex police” in terms of what consenting adults chose to do it seems clear that there is a line between consensual behaviors between people (of equal maturity and personal circumstances) and the manipulations you so accurately describe here.

    AA is not a dating service or pick-up/hang-out place. Its a fellowship of men and women who’s first priority is both sobriety and the dignity and safety of all our members. Anything that threatens any member needs to be dealt with quickly and effectively lest the most destructive elements (such as the Midtown gang) get a foothold in our basically safe and friendly program.

    Thanks so much for bringing this up as an issue for discussion, debate and action.

    Best,

    John

     

     

     

  12. Gerald January 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    We good men can’t stop the bad men, sorry 🙁 Neither can the good women stop them, but the good men and the good women of AA can let the new women know about sexual predation in the AA fellowship.

    And we good men & women can’t stop the ill-intentioned newcomer woman from participating in an unhealthy sexual relationship.

    We good men & women in AA don’t have the power to stop sex addicts, codependents, and Adult Children from doing what they want to do in the fellowship of AA (!) 🙂

    Personally, I’d love to see big warning signs on the walls, instead of the 12 Steps & 12 Traditions, listing the common signs & symptoms of sexual predation/ addiction, codependent behavior, and Adult Child syndrome, especially as the Adult Child syndrome  pertains to sex relations. You know, that would be a way for the meeting to get the message across that we don’t tolerate this kind of ill health here.

    But I can imagine the kind of reaction such warning signs would bring … Ouch! 🙂 Wouldn’t AA purists be angry?! Don’t mention other addictions like sex. Don’t talk about codependency or about the Adult Child syndrome. Let’s keep it simple so that we don’t confuse the newcomer …

    Would warning the newcomer be confusing the newcomer?

    Didnt I personally meet a bunch of bad girls out here when I was drinking? Would it have distracted me from the AA program if a sign on the wall said something to the effect of “Guess what? Those girls that were out there are in here, too. Be on guard and make your choice: sobriety or sickness. What is your choice to be? 🙂 ”

    Hmmm, what a dilemma. In theory, Keep It Simple sounds like it would protect both the program and the fellowship, but in actual practice KISS really only protects the program when there is just so much useful information out there in the world of recovery that could be quickly and easily applied to improve the AA fellowship without having to change the AA program.

    … But I think this fantasy of mine will remain just that, a fantasy 🙂 Things will stay the same. It will be up to the good men & women of AA to let newcomers know about sexual predation in the AA fellowship.

    We, healthier members of the AA fellowship are outnumbered, way, way outnumbered by the less healthier members. Only a minority of AA members ever achieve that promised spiritual awakening as the result of working those 12 steps.

    And we likely aren’t present at the sicker venues. We’re spending most of our time in the meetings where the message of the fellowship is to practice the program, as the program is described in the AA Big Book & 12&12, and I’m saying this as an atheist, a 23-year sober atheist member of the AA fellowship. The God talk, for me, was no impediment to that promised spiritual awakening.

    The majority of the AA fellowship today functions as a non-drinking society. Their message is about staying sober, 24 hours at a time. I don’t go to that AA.

    Instead, I go to the AA that really doesn’t talk about alcohol but talks about having a total transformation of character. You know, I go to the AA fellowships that sound like the BB & 12&12. Not the thumpers, don’t misunderstand, because the thumpers would have a heart attack if you started talking about “problems other than alcohol” like sex addiction, codependency, and Adult Child syndrome.

    And that’s minority AA. Let’s face reality here.

    But do find that AA. That’s a safe place for both the men & women victims & perpetrators to be.

    Thanks,

    Gerald, alcoholic

     

  13. life-j January 8, 2017 at 11:37 am - Reply

    And I would like to hear how they made that labyrinth on the beach

    • Doris A January 8, 2017 at 8:18 pm Reply

      Heather, I am very grateful that you contributed this well-crafted essay. You spoke to a problem in out community, you offered some advice about what can be done, and you shared your very personal story. It is a gem of an article.

      I remember being in treatment years old and being schlepped to a NA meeting, probably 3 days sober.  The chair of the meeting made sure we understood how imporant he was as a GSR and the service he provide to NA, but after the meeting he hit on a young woman who was there with me, still detoxing from drugs and coming out of a truly brutal (as in knock her into a coma) relationship.

      While I haven’t personally experienced the type of behavior you describe, I relate to being so totally vulnerable in my early years in AA.  As a chronic relapser, I had multiple times as one “in early recovery”.  I was fragile each time, holding on to a thread of sanity.  The rooms were filled people wanting to love me “until I could love myself”; BUT also there were vultures circling above.
      Early sobriety was often a time that I acted out sexually.  Sex was an escape, it was was a “high” so to speak, it was a way to feel like I had power and control.  I remember thinking
      “well this is better than drinking”. Fortunately, nothing horrible came of it, but it served as just another way to fill a void –  to keep me from really dealing with the true ache in my soul.

      Here’s to us looking out for one another, and for all the men and women who care about the new-comer walking through the door.

       

  14. life-j January 8, 2017 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Heather, thanks. There definitely is a problem, and not only with romance or the pretense of it, but also with implied or threatened, sometimes even outright violence. As for the 13th-stepping I did early on, I was probably barely 2 years sober, hit on a newcomer. She had more grace and style than me, and was able to repel my advances. What’s more – one of the women oldtimers took me outside the door at the following meeting and read me the riot act. She was sufficiently good at it to where I felt about as small as in similar situations in grade school.

    Move on up 20 years or so, I’m still sober, and a woman newcomer walks into a meeting and announces she is an agnostic. This prompted me to decide that it was time to start a freethinker’s meeting. And after the initial dozen or so meetings where people would come from up to 50 miles away to this new freethinkers meeting, it wound up being just her and me most of the time. So there we were me, and this cute little thing half my age, for well over a year, until she moved away to a different town to go to rehab, and stayed there.

    During that time she showed up tipsy to meetings at least twice and came on to me in no uncertain terms. I confess that not taking her up on it was one of the harder things I have done in my life. Well, hard in some ways. I did have a good sane relationship at home, and enough program under my belt to know that it would have been nothing but trouble. I’m glad I was able to do it that way, though when on occasion I see her it is not without a tinge of regret. isn’t it amazing how sick we can be? A similar opportunity during my drinking days there’s no doubt how it would have turned out. We still keep in contact. When things are real bad she trusts no-one, and she goes drinking,  but for slightly less bad situations she will call me. She is now in a relationship with a man in recovery who it seems treat her well, though I have not met him. Of course it is hard on him that she drinks on occasion. Him and I are probably the only men she has had in her life that didn’t abuse the situation to its fullest.

    I’m not as sick as I used to be.

    And if there was one chance in a million that she or anyone she knows would read this I wouldn’t have written it here.

    Anyway, here’s someone who the AA program has also failed by only offering moral rearmament for recovery. Most people need so much more than that.

     

  15. Larry K January 8, 2017 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Thank you Heather for your powerful message of strength and hope.

     

    Indeed, i hope it acts as a beacon, shedding light on an issue kept all to often in the shadows.  We have a duty to one another.  Our own safety depends on the safety of all.

  16. boyd p. January 8, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Heather,

    Predatory behavior will not go away.  Thanks for make that plain. We need to be ready.  Those within a group who are able need to be empowered, both in the moment and in the service structure of AA.  In the moment men and women who see the problem step up.  When the problem continues take it to the group’s business meeting.  A group conscience can decide how firm a particular sanction should be.

     

    For example, our home group has a female leader currently, who asked for a partner, to open the building and greet attendees.  She got the support sought.  In Assemblies and District functions the subject has resonance as well.  Workshops have been held, but more is always needed. I have heard Great Britain has a pamphlet, but  haven’t seen it.  Still, when something like that is published, no matter how forceful, many think “problem solved”.  Not.  Similar to sobriety, constant vigilance is required, one day at a time.

  17. Thomas B. January 8, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Thanks so much, Heather, for this most effective consideration of a dynamic that has been a challenge for AA since its very beginning. Dr. Bob initially refused to work with women because he was afraid they would distract the men in the Akron Oxford Group from recovery. Bill Wilson was reputed to be an inveterate womanizer, who needed other members to intervene between him and an attractive newcomer, whenever one attended New York AA meetings.

    I strongly identify with your statement ” The minute a man showed interest, I was off and running for two reasons: the distraction and the emotional painkiller.” I’ve been known to state that my primary addiction is falling in love . . . 😉 Having gotten sober in New York City during the 1970s during the heyday of the so-called “sexual revolution,” a predominate dynamic for dating was “relationships du jour.” I’m most grateful I never relapsed as a result of my numerous misadventures between the sheets.

    I also must point out that twice I was the victim of predatory behavior from women, once when an older woman seduced me in my first couple of months of sobriety, and later by a young woman, who was not alcoholic, who cruised the rooms for hookups as was a common practice during the ’70s. In both instances I experienced deep shame for succumbing to this all too prevalent “normal” human behavior.

    I can’t agree with you more that AA at all levels of its self-governance, but especially at the group level, must devise ways to address this challenge to our legacies of Unity, Service, Recovery.

    And Jan, thank you so much for your intriguing and most appropriate graphics.

  18. XBarbarian January 8, 2017 at 8:17 am - Reply

    great piece, Heather, thank you.

    indeed, predators are everywhere more than 2 people interact. it needs to be addressed every single day. these sort of issues aren’t “business” mtg issues.. spoken to once, then falsely imagined they are resolved. no. these are issues we as individuals must speak to as they occur, and expect them to occur daily at the busier mtgs. elephants in the living room lie problems, that are best confronted stright up, publically. not by bullies, but by the most calm, emotionally managed members

     

    • XBarbarian January 8, 2017 at 8:21 am Reply

      all with a heavy amount of compassion and understanding, that the predatory behaviour isn’t dirty or evil, but simple evidence of alternative manifestations of the complexity of the addict / alcoholic condition. and it clearly is not just men, plenty of female predators in the rooms as well.

      where we often go wrong, is when we imagine.. “these people should know better..” – like expectations. absurd. recovery isn’t the wellness society, or pieous bleeding deacons, no, these mtgs are gatherings of broken and maladjusted people. act accordingly.

  19. John S January 8, 2017 at 7:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for writing this Heather. I spent 25 of my past 28 years in AA attending meetings at an all men’s group so my interaction with women in the program was limited to a few friends. A few years ago after helping to start an agnostic AA group, I began to learn about predatory behaviors and sexual abuse/harassment in the rooms of AA, and I wanted my group to be a safe place for everyone, and I think that it is.

    Having had an exclusively male experience in AA, I value having women in meetings and I need their perspective. We seem to get a lot of women newcomers, in fact I would hesitate to guess that most of the newcomers to our group are women, though I don’t think they return in as high a percentage as male newcomers. At any given time, the men outnumber the women I say maybe 3 to 1. I find it frustrating as I would like to see more parity and I would like that when a woman walks into the meeting, that she is greeted by other women with whom she can relate.

    Why do the women not come in greater numbers? I’ve asked myself this and I don’t know. Is it because mostly men are in the rooms and is something going on in the meeting that I am not picking up on? It troubles me, though I am happy to see the women in our group bonding and they seem to have a closer connection with each other than do we men.

    I think we need to have the same stringent expectations with regard to our behavior in meetings as we do in the workplace. This is how I behave, though I do sometimes use salty language in meetings that perhaps I should curtail. I think that touching and commenting about a person’s body, etc are out of bounds.

    The thing that bugs me too is that I often hear women talk about men’s egos. I don’t know what to do about this and it makes me uncomfortable that perhaps I have a big ego and am making women uncomfortable, just because of that. I’m hyper sensitive to the matter of ego due to my former home group that stressed humility to such a great extent. Also, I think it’s sort of a trait of Midwesterners to be more low key about things.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s an important topic and one that I am interested in learning more. I really want AA to be safe and secure for everyone and I want to make sure that I know what is going on in my AA group.

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