First of all – and this is an important point – I am one of you. For the past thirty years I’ve attended and been involved with a twelve-step recovery program for people who struggle with addiction. I’ve probably attended thousands of meetings, done years’ worth of service at the group, area, regional and national levels. I’ve worked about twelve sets of steps. I’ve sponsored dozens of women and had about six sponsors of my own. I came to believe in a higher power but I prefer not to define what it is. I can recite the literature although I usually don’t. I’m not a perfect member, but I’m a member.
To be fully transparent, these days, I sometimes go weeks or months without a meeting, yet I do love meetings when I get to them. I don’t currently have a sponsor nor do I sponsor other women actively, but I’m still close with many of my former sponsors and sponsees. I haven’t worked a full set of steps in a few years but I incorporate the principles of all of the steps into my daily life. I try as hard as I can to remain honest, open-minded and willing in all areas.
Before you feel compelled to judge how well I’m working my program – or not – I just want to remind you that the only requirement for membership in my program is the desire to stop acting out on my addiction. Come to think of it…that’s true for all twelve step programs.
All this to say I come to this discussion as someone who loves, honors and celebrates twelve step recovery. It is always the first thing that I suggest to women who are new to recovery and looking for resources. It’s free (although donations are accepted at each meeting) – it’s everywhere – as in all over the world including developing countries. Literature for my program of choice is available in 34 languages and translations are in process for 16 other languages. Twelve step recovery programs offer meetings specific to women, to LGBTQ individuals, young people and other groups. Clearly, twelve-step recovery is the most accessible free help available for people with substance use or other behavioral health issues.
The truth is, we can’t separate the issue of privilege and recovery when we talk about twelve-step recovery. Twelve-step recovery is often the only option for some people, for some women – especially when we start looking internationally. It’s important for me to recognize my privilege as a white, middle-class, straight Canadian woman. I can afford to participate in other recovery modalities such as therapy, treatment, yoga, online programs or in-person retreats. Not everyone can.
So, is twelve-step recovery perfect?
I say not.
I could say a lot about the things that I wish twelve-step programs did better. Anything run by humans is going to fall short in different areas. I know that there are problems with the language – as well as other parts of the framework. I’ll touch on some of these things in a few minutes.
My focus here is merely to suggest what women in twelve-step programs can do better so that more women can check out and experience twelve step recovery. Sadly – some of the most alienating and disappointing things I hear about twelve step recovery – are related to how some women treat or speak to other women within the programs and fellowships. I have been guilty of saying some very not-useful things to women myself in my early years of recovery. I simply repeated what I had heard myself. But for a long time now I have been thinking about how if we could just open up a conversation about this – we can all do better.
I offer these suggestions with love – but also some urgency. Women are dying, physically and spiritually. Children are suffering due to their mothers’ struggles. Women who are in or seeking recovery need to be able to access more – not less – welcoming, non-judgmental, accepting and loving spaces where they can heal and thrive. I’m not just talking about in-person twelve step meetings, but include online spaces such as online meetings, Facebook groups, Instagram and beyond.
Here are ten ideas on how we, as women in twelve-step programs, can do better.
- Let’s not force women brand new to recovery to identify as an alcoholic or addict. We aren’t the boss of how they identify themselves. This practice is really more about us than them. I personally don’t care if a woman ever claims a label. I do it in meetings because it’s no big deal to me, and I think that there is a certain power to saying “My name is Dawn and I’m an addict” in a meeting – there’s no emotional charge to it for me at all and I think that in itself can reduce stigma (others disagree, I know). I don’t identify that way outside of meetings.
- Evidence shows that the shame of relapse often prolongs relapse. Let’s celebrate when women come back to meetings after a relapse but for God’s sake let’s not shame them. I can tell you the names of women I know who kept using – until they died – because they were too overcome with shame to come back to meetings. That needs to change.
- When women express concerns about the overtly masculine, relatively religious overtones in the literature, let’s be on the same side and agree with them. Because it is what it is. But then let’s encourage them to ignore as best they can the language that they find triggering or disempowering. I no longer waste my energy trying to change the language, but I am open about its shortcomings and vocal about how I have the ability to re-interpret it for myself. Maybe one day the language will be changed. But maybe not. In the meantime recommend that women check out A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps. Brilliant book – trauma informed and written specifically for women.
- Let’s do everything we can to correct the inaccurate perception that twelve-step meetings are for people who hit low bottoms. Reminder here – the only requirement is the desire to stop doing the thing (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc). Please don’t ever tell another woman that she needs to and I quote “go back out and do more research” or suggest that she needs to – and I quote again – “go out and hit a bottom and then come back.” Both of these statements are absurd and dangerous. I actually kind of go ballistic on women if I ever hear them say anything like this to another woman.
- Can we lose the ludicrous suggestion that women need to attend 90 meetings in 90 days in order to “get” recovery? Can we instead suggest 90 days of self-care with as many meetings as a woman feels she needs and can get to after she has worked, taken care of her children, spent time with other loved ones, gone to therapy or for walks or a run, to yoga. We don’t get to dictate women’s recovery schedules – we can make suggestions but unless a woman is single, unemployed and believes herself that she needs 90 meetings in 90 days – we have no right to put that expectation on her. On a related note – as women get more secure in their recovery and are rebuilding their lives – they often cut back on their meeting attendance. Don’t try to make them feel guilty about that on the occasions they do show up at meetings. They will just go away for good if you do, and who can blame them? Familiarize yourself with the twelfth step – they are likely taking their recovery out into their families, their workplaces and communities. That counts. And remember – the only requirement for membership is _____________________ (fill in the blank).
- Can we remember that women are conditioned to go overboard with being of service to other people in their lives. Pressuring women early in recovery to be “of service” in twelve-step meetings can be too much for women who may already be over-subscribed caring for children and other family members as well as working and managing a household and holding on to their recovery with every remaining ounce of their being. Just getting to meetings is important enough – service work can come later.
- Women may have difficult experiences participating in meetings. Give them some space and time. They will speak up when they are ready.
- The pressure to “get a sponsor” can invite a lot of anxiety. I believe that women need to take their time picking out someone to works steps with (which – as we all know – is the purpose of a having a sponsor). If you want to offer to be a friend to a woman new to recovery – that works quite well. Don’t force them into relationships with sponsors before they are ready.
- Twelve step-work can trigger trauma issues – sponsors and supporters are with few exceptions not trained to deal with trauma that arises during “step-work.” If the women you are working with disclose past trauma – please dear god please – suggest that they seek professional help to heal from it. This might be the most important suggestion that I have.
- In some twelve-step circles – doing work “outside” of the program is viewed as unnecessary and therefore women can be judged negatively for seeking other types of help or pathways. Don’t be one of those judges. In fact, encourage women to get all of the support and help outside of the program that they can, always.
Well I’ve actually probably got more – but I’ve gone on long enough for now and those are my ten suggestions. I hope that you will consider them closely. I think that lives depend on it.
I know that there is a lot of energy out in the world that argues that we should just throw the baby out with the bath water and get rid of twelve-step programs altogether because of their shortcomings. I disagree vehemently. There are millions of people living healthier, happier lives today because they found recovery in one of these programs. I’m one of them. As I said earlier – I’m forever grateful.
I’m also grateful to and need to acknowledge the many women in twelve-step recovery who I have met and continue to meet who are like me – vocal advocates for all pathways and patchworks of recovery. I love hearing women who are strong twelve-steppers tell other women “I get that this might not work for you and I just really hope you find something that does.” And I love it even more when we can create spaces – online and in real life – where women in recovery can all come together and share what works about our own individualized approach.
I promise to always honor and respect your recovery pathways and patchworks. I only ask that you do the same in return.
I shit you not. We’re stronger together.
Dear Dawn, Thank you for a great article. I would love to invite you on the Sunday Night Health Show a radio program in Western Canada on the Corus Network. The interview would be ten minutes long over the phone. If you’re available tomorrow for a pre-record anytime between 11-1215 pm PST that would be awesome. Thank you for considering.
Hi Maureen – thank you so much! I’d love to participate but unfortunately I’m on a call from 11 – 12:30 today! Can you please email me if you have other times or other dates? I can be reached at email@example.com (NOT .com). Thank you so much for reaching out.
When I do go to a meeting that I don’t like what I hear I find another one. I do have the luxury where I live to do that! I will also reach out to a newcomer and let them know that’s not how it works!
The things you wrote about I’ve heard other women share about. These are rules people make up. They are not in the big book(Alcoholics Anonymous) it doesn’t say anywhere in the big book go to 90 meetings in 90 days I’ve only seen people support people who have relapsed. It says in the big book about high bottoms. I do believe you should take your time and get a sponsor. That’s why they suggest temporary sponsors. I’ve only seen kindness when people aren’t ready to share. AA loved me until I could love myself! I am forever grateful for AA.
I did stop going to meetings and went out for 15 years! I’m back now with 5 years. So I’ll keep going to meeting because for me. I believe meeting makers make it.
I love this article and as a woman involved in 12 steps I agree with every word. I am so fortunate that I have a sponsor who has always encouraged me to seek support from many different sources, try any and all recovery programs to find whatever fits, and let me know that I can safely share parts of my story that involve trauma but I do not have to share anything I don’t want to and she encourages me to get proper, professional help with processing trauma. But most of all she saw that I judged my worth in a day by how many people I helped and how much I achieved so strongly recommended I not do any service until I felt solid in putting myself first, knowing my intrinsic worth, and had found a level of balance between self-care, recovery, work and family. I see women stretched too thin being told they must be of service and I am so glad you raised that point. Thanks Dawn for this and for She Recovers. So grateful.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your reflections and experience. Beyond grateful to hear of the impact your sponsor has had on your recovery and honored to hear a part of your recovery story. You are an inspiration to us. Beyond grateful to have you a part of this community.
I’m in recovery now and I’m Tracy, and I’m an alcoholic/ addict. IV been clean and sober for 9 months and 9days now and I attend both fellowships. Admittedly AA being the more prominent if the 2. I have a sponsor who is amazing and I’m just starting the steps. I’m excited and nervous about that lol. I’m glad I read your post, thankyou for sharing your experience with other women. The warm non judgmental welcome I first was shown is a huge part of why I kept coming back xoxo
Thank you Tracy – I’m so glad that you are having a positive experience – as did I – I credit NA – and the women in that program – with giving me both hope and guidance in the early days.
Thank you!! I always have loved watching you, and your voice helps me a lot !! And I love ya
Aw, you are the sweetest. Big love. Dawn.
Even though I’m a heterosexual married male I can totally relate to your article, Dawn. I’ve also been continuously clean for well over two decades and still hit three N.A. meetings a week because it works well for me. I like to say I have a program within The Program for I don’t subscribe to every bit of the literature.
I experimented with drugs years ago so it made sense to me to experiment with many forms of recovery when I came into the rooms in ’94 as well.
I’ve got a on-line Page that deals with addiction and mental health issues that keeps me busy, enthusiastic, and passionate. Feel free to check it out…
Thanks so much for your article. Loved every bit of your honesty!
Thanks Gordy – appreciate the male perspective and will check out your page when I get a chance.
Thank you Dawn. What an amazing article. I especially love the 90 in 90…
I went to 5 meetings a week when I first started AA and worked , and I am a single mom. My daughter is on the autism spectrum. She is high functioning and now 18. She was 16 when I started. I still don’t think I made 90 in 90…like you said…
Expectations aren’t something that should be placed on us. It could backfire and hinder recovery. Thank you for all you do and always being YOU. Hugs
Robin – thanks for your comments. I went to about 3 meetings a week back in the day when I first started recovery – and I took my two young daughters with me often. They got tired of it before I did!Thank you for being YOU and for being a part of our community! Love ~Dawn~
The 12 steps of recovery has being a gift in my life…a bridge from the darkness into the light and love. This life I see today has much beauty with beautiful people. It is because of the 12 steps of recovery which prepared me for so much more learning. I’m thankful I have shared space with you Dawny girl 🙂
Aw, meeting women like is the greatest gift of 12 step recovery to me. So much love to you, Colleen. Miss you. ~Dawn~
I appreciate the work you are doing to support those in recovery based on your experience. Supporting and respecting everyone’s right to guide their own recovery journey is so important. It helps us be inclusive and not further contribute to feelings of shame and guilt.
Thank you so much for your insightful reflections. We appreciate you taking the time to share – thanks for being here.
hi! great piece. i am working on an article for mic.com about recovery coaching and i would love to talk to you.
LOVE YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU SAID!!!
Thank you so much Dawn. I really needed to read this. I appreciate your perspective and strength.❤️
I agree, Dawn… 12 stepping isn’t for everybody. I found I just needed to become teachable. I was told by an oldtimer at one of my first AA meetings that if I didn’t find god, I would never get sober. Not my god, his god. I now try to practice Buddhism in my daily affairs and find it meshes with my ideals of sobriety. As I mentioned to you, I recently helped co-facilitate a 16 step program and found it helped a great deal.
Love to you – sorry it took me forever to catch up on website comments. Glad you are part of our community!
Thanks so much for your article! I could relate to a lot that you said, but can also say that my experience has been different. All I have to share is my experience, strength, and hope. Period. If I haven’t experienced it personally, I shouldn’t make suggestions on it. I know that when I wanted to get sober, I was ready and I was willing to do whatever was suggested of me, regardless of my thoughts about it (as my thinking was pretty messed up). I’ve seen people ‘think’ their way right out of recovery because all they could see were the differences (not the similarities). It’s also my experience that no amount of yoga/healthy eating/pilates/running/therapy was able to get me sober; so I will continue to attend my recovery program in order to keep me sober. It’s also important that I continue ‘showing up’ so that I’m there when others show up for help. If others stop going to meetings, who will carry the message of recovery? When I arrived in recovery, people were there to welcome me and show me how they stayed sober. I’m grateful for those people- they saved my life. Recovery is something I cannot do alone. I need you, and others to stay sober. Thank you for carrying the message. Much love ❤️
Wow I completely relate to all 10 suggestions. I came to 12Steps when I got sober and am still continuing the program after 19 months.. it has helped me tremendously but so have many other things along the way. I truly believe in “take what you like and leave the rest” I’ve had trouble sharing in huge meetings and at first was told that’s my ego but turns out I’m just an introvert and prefer smaller groups to be open in and that’s OK!! Thank you for shedding light on all of this bc this has all been in my head!!
There is so much magic in 12 step programs – I am so glad you have found some – and found support beyond as well too. Much love to you. Dawn.
I am a person in long term recovery as well & grateful to 12 step program for my long term clean time.
I can agree with some of your points, especially that all programs, this included, is made up of human beings, so will always have some shortcomings.
It has also saved countless lives, including mine.
I am a therapist and a researcher so over last several years have gotten into researching other recovery programs besides 12 step programs. At our treatment center, we try & introduce as many as we can that are available with people coming into our facility and discussing.
Being a single mother, newly divorced & had been a stay at home mother for past 15 years with no career when first got clean, everything was a bit overwhelming.
Especially b/c I knew soon I would need to go back to school & finish my degree or work on new career path. So I can see that point of being overwhelmed with the 90 in 90 (I remember!) and doing stepwork & getting involved with service position etc.
I have sponsored women differently.
And also had an incredible 2nd sponsor for many years.
We worked the Women’s Way through the 12 steps (by the way) and she also referred me to therapy when trauma came out on my 1st 4th step, which I’m so very grateful for her!
I have a sponsor & a great sponsorship family. They are out of town. I continue to work the steps yet it’s sporadic. I have my clean time than my current sponsor yet she has some things I want.
This program does have some flaws, yet I’ve seen too many incredible miracles come from it. I sponsor many beautiful women, and a gay male. I’m blessed beyond measure. I allow them to fit things in their life as they grow.
I’m also not of the norm since I am not against M.A.T.’s b/c we are losing too many people. I’ve lost too many. And if someone can get off opiates using medicated assisted treatment & live a productive life, & happy, then so be it. They didn’t die.
But that’s me.
No one should die from our disease.
And what ever path anyone can find, I will gladly stand with them & help them in anyway that I can.
Thank you for chiming in, Nicole. I appreciate your experience and perspective – and you are so right at M.A.T. – it’s such an important tool. Much love to you and thank you for all you do in service to those struggling. ~Dawn~
I agree with you on the MAT ! Who are we to tell people when to stop taking medication? Especially since people may be in all kinds of prescription anti depressants, anti anxiety etc. Meds! We don’t get to pick and choose what’s acceptable to be on for another person . Do we tell smokers when to stop using nicotine replacement?
Hi there. I’m so glad that you brought up MAT because it can be such an important and life saving tool for opiate addiction. Bc unfortunately, from the statistical perspective, NA/AA alone has a very low recovery rate for opiate addicts. Things are getting some what better in the rooms but a lot of folk are very misinformed and an uneducated on this particular issue yet they have very strong opinions. I’ve seen very strong opinions against all types of meds, including antidepressants, which I find to be ludicrous and dangerous and I’ve seen turn people off of the benefit of the rooms more tms than I can count. And that has got to change.
I agree Nicole – hopefully the tide will turn. Until it does, we will continue to hold space as we do for ALL pathways and patchworks of recovery. We host two meetings a day, more info at https://www.sherecovers.org/together-online. Love, Dawn.
Great read. You’re brilliant. Thanks for pioneering!
Thank you for reading. See YOU soon. Love you.
Beautifully said Dawn. Thanks so much for all you do.
All of you comments are very on point and I appreciate you making these suggestions. It’s so important to let go of judgement and rigidity and just support each other so we can all succeed and celebrate our recovery together.
Brenda – I love that you get this. You are such an incredible model of grace and strength in recovery and the women who are mentored and supported by you are so fortunate. Love you, my friend. ~Dawn~
Yes to everything! Especially #9 – I’ve seen far too many woman who have concurrent disorders, trauma etc, who clearly need extra professional help not get it because they are under the assumption working the steps is the only answer.Then when they relapse they internalize it as a failure and feel like it’s something they are doing wrong within the program. Very scary stuff when we are talking about people with suicidal thoughts. I feel it’s very important to clarify when you are sponsoring that you have no psychological training and are just a women like they are trying to do your best.
I’ve seen everything you have mentioned played out and experienced some of them myself, but like you I do see a huge value in the program. The steps are a great way to “do” life. Getting past the language and judgment of others can be difficult but having a place to go for in person connection is so important.
Reading this has made me want to go to a meeting. With a new perspective unique to myself I might be able to ignore the aspects that aren’t for me and receive the connection I really need.
Thanks for this.
Love you, Kelly. Thanks for chiming in. ~Dawn~
Thank you. I love this. When I first started AA in the throws of a divorce and all kinds of stress, it was a miracle just to show up. Numerous times I was shamed when people asked me to read and I declined. Because I knew I couldn’t get through it without crying. I really resented that pressure.
I hope you are doing well now, Elizabeth. Much love to you. ~Dawn~
This article articulates so many thoughts I had/have, especially when I was new and already looking for so many reasons why I wasn’t really an alcoholic — why I was exceptional and should just stand up and sneak out of the room halfway through a meeting without meeting anyone. Some of my first women’s meetings had forced identification as alcoholics with time (“Hi, I’m Jenny, I’m an alcoholic, and I have four years, three months, and three days!”). It was kind of infuriating and definitely alienating. I have five years with no alcohol today. Happy birthday, me! It’s a big damn deal. It’s not just because of AA, but that’s a giant part of it. I love the patchwork reference. I *love* subscribing to your feed on Instagram, because that’s what directed me to this article. Instagram’s sober voices have brought me so much solace and comfort and direction. I feel the personal connection to these women and men, finding the similarities a lot more quickly and easily than I do with the stories in standard AA literature. That doesn’t mean the AA literature is bad at all (I love “Living Sober” and “Daily Reflections” so much)…it’s just not comprehensive. My program includes things someone else’s might not, like taking piano lessons and practicing piano instead of meditating. It includes writing songs and recording them instead of journaling or sending a story in for the Grapevine. It includes taking time to make myself healthy food and getting exercise instead of jamming in fast food and rushing to be on time to a 12 step meeting because I need X amount of meetings in a week or I’m inadequate and unworthy and need shaming. We are all trudging this road of happy destiny in our own ways. To compare is to despair! Bless you for sharing your light with all of us.
Happy birthday to you indeed! Thanks for chiming in – everything you said resonates for me. Much love. ~Dawn~
You took the words right out of my head and heart. Our stories are parallel, and our beliefs align strongly. I have 31 years, and wrote a capstone paper 3 years ago for my MS on “The Barriers to the 12-Step Program”.You have them all: the “God” word and I’ll add it’s a HE on the wall, archaic culture and language, and the sponsor role and its alliance. I’m Recovered for today, because I started my day getting in “fit spiritual condition and have my daily reprieve now. I’m happy I took time to read this. .Bravo 🎉👏 ❤️
Allison – it’s so nice to hear from you. I’m glad the piece resonated. I’d love to read your paper (I’m writing a book). Congratulations on your newest venture – it’s been so many years since we connected but we have both been busy! Thanks for chiming in and for reading the blog post. ~Dawn~
Thank you, Thank you, Thank You from the deepest part of my being Thank You!
During my 5th year of attending meetings, I chose to walk away due to the comments a behavior of a few of the ‘mean girls’ I was, and still, doing work outside the program to further my healing.
I now 3 years later. I attend meetings when I am in an emotional whirlwind. Meetings are a tool in my tool box. I still maintain contact with my sponsor.
My life is not perfect neither is my program. However, I know it’s working for me. The judgement from certain folks working an active program has,at times, been cruel,judgemental.
Out programs are personal journeys. Community supports that journey. People forget that its personal. What works for one…may not be what the other needs. My job is to support others,live an honest life and surround myself with great community – wherever it is found.
Thank you, Dawn. I thought I was the only one who felt this way.
Laura, thanks for sharing. I tend to fall in and out of love with the program – I always consider myself a member and generally love meetings when I get to them. I’m glad you have found what you need and how to “be” with the program. Much love, Dawn.
Thank you for this dear Dawn! I agree with every word and knowing you, all of the stuff you didn’t touch on, yet. I look forward to more on this topic!
We are fortunate. We have a close knit and strong recovery fellowship here. There is a great men’s recovery house in our community. As a result our meetings can be made up of 75% men to women. There has been talk of opening a women’s house for years and the need is great. Soon, I pray.
I’m in the process of opening a women’s meeting in our small community.
We’ve had several over the years that have thrived and then slowly ebbed away and closed. I am in touch with many of the women who attended our most recent group regularly and most are doing really well. Just busy doing life, all with kids and careers. I’m hoping that the saying “build it and they will come” will hold true with this new meeting. A terrible tragedy made me realize the urgent need for a “Women’s” meeting.
Two weeks ago, one of our members and a former sponsee of mine, took her own life. She had relapsed and moved to a community with only one struggling meeting. I’ll be attending her memorial service today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see well over 500 people attending. She was an extraordinary young woman.
She struggled with mental illness in addition to addiction, and had a huge plateful of responsibility. She appeared to juggle it all effortlessly. As we do. Women are amazingly capable until we’re not.
What this tragedy brought home for me was the urgent need for a safe and warm space for women to come together to support one another. I’m a member of NA, and this will be an NA Women’s meeting but honestly, personally I don’t give a rat’s ass what “A” you identify as. What I care about is that women who are struggling with addiction, or life, or just need fellowship, have a place they can come where they can feel a sense of belonging, love and acceptance. And find a new way to live.
I am committed to keeping this meeting open, no matter what. Ebb and flow happens here, I’m okay with that.
Thank you so much for letting me share all of this Dawn. Love to you and Taryn ❤❤ Julie W., Penticton, BC
Julie – I am so sorry for your community’s loss. How heartbreaking. Thank you so much for your service – it’s so important that women have a safe and warm place to come together. Much love to you and all of our sisters during this difficult time. It’s nice to hear from you. ~Dawn~
Dawn, your article has great insights on the 12-step program. As you mentioned, many have been helped by going to a 12-step group, yet there are interpretations of the program that can be harmful to some, starting with your first point: Let’s not force women brand new to recovery to identify as an alcoholic or addict. Labels are not helpful unless someone is ready to call themselves one of those terms. I love what Greg Williams started, I am a person in long-term recovery. I have also been helped by a 12-step program for parents. That being said, 12-step is not the only way to get recovery. We need programs to fit all needs.
13 years in AA and I’m grateful. You’re right – SO far from perfect, but I take what I need and leave the rest. The best way I can get it to work for me is if I have an open mind and stay in humility. I wonder why in some circles getting outside help is frowned upon. It’s even encouraged in the Big Book!
Congratulations on 13 years! I have always loved the advice to “take what you need and leave the rest.” I wish more women understood that that is an option – let’s keep spreading that word! Love, Dawn.
Hey Dawn- I am 29 years sober and the one thing I always want people in recovery to know is I don’t work a perfect program. In fact, I often say I don’t think anyone does and that is the beauty of the program. Just wanted to tell you I appreciate all you have done and do in recovery and no judgement here. You do you. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Kimberly – thank you so much for your kind words. I’m perfectly imperfect too – and glad about it. Much love, Dawn.
Hello Dawn, thank you so much for your post. My friend actually forwarded this to me recently so I’m a little late in responding as I see you written this over the summer. I couldn’t agree more with your words. My friend Liz left the rooms because of the judge mental ways of some of the women and unfortunately she never made it back. I always try to remember her example when I’m sponsoring women and try as best I can to show them loving and kind ways so that they will stay. I’m not sure what it is within women that can sometimes put us in that judgemental way. Myself included. I pray to God every day to remove that defect. Thank you again as I’m sure this article will be helping many women
Thanks for your kind words, Terri. And thank you for your service to other women in recovery. Much love, Dawn.
Thank you for this. I can’t tell you how many times I joined AA and left it after a few months because what I was able to give wasn’t “enough”. When I joined, they said “take what you like and leave the rest”. Within a few months, when I balked at giving up time on my hobby and/or more time with my family, I heard that “you must be willing to go to any length necessary to achieve sobriety”. Who was to say that what I was already doing wasn’t enough? They didn’t think it was. I should give up running, I should give up dog sports and my family should understand…if I wanted what they had. That’s what I was told. I didn’t want to trade the life I had for a life in AA. I wanted a life without alcohol. I left AA thinking that I needed to drink until I lost my family, my job, everything…THEN I could devote myself to AA the way it was expected of me. I realized how messed up that thinking was. When I finally found recovery…I remember sitting at my computer and going to log into my online AA community when I said to myself “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. I googled “quit drinking without AA” and found so many recovery resources! I think AA could be for high bottoms if the people in it realize that what they needed may not be what all need. My experience was that it serves the low bottoms very well.
Ann – thank you so much for sharing! We hold space for women who use ALL pathways and patchworks of recovery. We host two meetings a day, more info at https://www.sherecovers.org/together-online. We would love to have you join us. Love, Dawn.
This is an awesome article. I am new in recovery and felt the pressures of getting a sponsor and my experience with that was…let’s say…interesting. I was told by another women in the program to rememeber we are all not healthy and we didn’t come to AA because we were. So, I am seeking other ways of recovery, in addition to AA. Thank you for this article as I needed this today.
Leslie – we believe that women need to be supported to find and follow individualized pathways and patchworks of recovery – which can include 12 step – but doesn’t have to. We are all unique and can create what works for us. During this time of social distancing and self-isolation we are actually hosting two free Zoom support gatherings per day – you are more than welcome to join us! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions but here is the link to the information: https://sherecovers.org/together-online/
Glad you are here.
Thank you so much, I really needed this reminder. I have been sober in AA for 16 years, outside therapy for 13 of that. I just needed the reminders today at how I myself have done those very same things and I have also grown to have much broader beliefs. I think for me it was just so awesome to see that someone else feels everything I do too about recovery. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am so very grateful for AA, without it I would be dead today. I truly believe I was divinely led to AA through a judge, of course I found him (hahaha) at 60 days and when my heart was in shreds at 2 1/2 years sober I found my therapist. I truly would not be who I am today without every single thing that has happened throughout all of this. Thank you God that I found your blog today by continuing to relentlessly to seek other pathways because today I still want to be a sober happy woman more than I want to be drunk. I love you and look forward to reading more. Thank you so much🥰
Hi Dawn, Thanks for this article and clearly mapping these issues out for us. I’ve been in AA for about 4 months now, and at first had very strong resistance to the sexist language in the big book. I’m grateful my sponsor suggested I just take what works for me and let go of the rest, and I’ve basically been able to do that. I also really hated having to identify as an alcoholic right off the bat. It kept me from sharing for awhile because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to slap that label on myself. By now I’m used to it and actually arrived at a place where I see it’s appropriate, but folks should be allowed to decide for themselves. It actually isn’t in the 12 traditions that we *have to* use the label, it’s a misinterpretation of the 3rd tradition that sort of just became a custom. And finally, I’m someone who had no bottom. It kept me from seeking help for too long. My drinking fit into what society calls “normal”. I believed AA was only for the extreme alcoholics. I wish we could spread the idea that alcoholism is a spectrum, and if you feel deep inside you have a problem then you probably do….the rest doesn’t matter, just seek help! Once I realized this I was able to stop faffing about and just dive into sobriety and recovery! Thanks again and see you in the meetings, much love from Germany xo
Holy crap. I had no idea how much I needed to read this. Thank you.
Glad it reached you. Thanks for being here!
Thanks for sharing this useful information. I really like your post. I am sharing it with my friends.
Yes yes and YES. I’ve been in recovery for 21 years. I haven’t been sober for 21 years, but I’ve been in recovery. I have experienced the negative effects of each one of these things. It has taken me out, it has caused me to lose faith, it has made my relapses last years instead of days. The old-timer mentality is bullshit and if any of their beliefs were ever challenged and they actually listened there is no way they could defend them. I’ve seen countless newcomers show up to an old timers aa meeting for the first time and God for bid identify as an addict. They are immediately shut down and made a fool of. And then they go out and die. Thank you for writing this I only hope the right people read it. And if you think this is about your behavior, it is.
I’m so sorry you have had negative experiences – but congratulations on your 21 years of recovery. I do think that minds are being changed in 12 step recovery – but not enough and not fast enough to save lives. We can all do better. ~Dawn~
Thank you for this dear Dawn! I agree with every word and knowing you, all of the stuff you didn’t touch on, yet. I look forward to more on this topic!
I really love your post. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Thanks – not exactly sure “who” you are but you seem to know me? Thanks for your kind words, glad the blog landed for you. ~Dawn~