DISCLAIMER**Limited, as is everything I write, to my own experience. I have no special AA qualifications, just some amount of “time on task.”
This is not about the Thirteenth Step, which in my opinion is very wrong, nor is it about newcomers becoming romantically involved, which in my opinion is a very bad idea.
I met both my wife and my ex in AA. I “met” her online, and refused to meet in person until she had a year of sobriety. I had 12 years at that time. I met my ex in real life and we lived near each other and went to lots of the same meetings. Through the years I’ve also known lots of AA couples – couples who met in AA or couples who came in together or who came in one at a time.
I have no statistics as to how these relationships compare to other relationships, and it’s a weak impression of mine that they last longer than others. I know the Big Book goes on enthusiastically that these marriages can be some of the best, and I have no doubt that is true. Honestly it surprises me how dismal statistics are for things like marriage in the US, and it’s a sore spot with me that marriages don’t last very long. Heterosexual people are permitted to marry, divorce, and marry again, many times over, yet Carole and I are not permitted to do it once. And our relationship has lasted at this point almost 12 years, which isn’t all that long but it’s longer than the average straight marriage.
Off my soapbox now.
When I was younger I remember thinking how fraught with danger this situation is, knowing as we do how fragile sobriety is and how easily and often it’s broken. It turns out that those thoughts were accurate. Still, at this point and in hindsight I would say that’s no reason to stay away from relationships within the program. Though sobriety is fragile, so is life itself, and stuff will happen.
Through the years people have asked me, and I assume they’ve asked Carole, what we have in common. Because we met online and through writing (those were the days before digital photography and we actually had to send paper pictures through snail mail to know what the other looked like), it’s interesting. The list of things we don’t have in common is long and important. She likes/follows/plays various sports, and I do not. She is outgoing and loves to meet new people and be in social, crowded situations (parades, parties, banquets, rallies) and I do not. She loves to travel and be on vacation and I do not.
In a way, though, our foundation really is AA, because that’s where and how we met. I think it’s a good foundation. I think it’s the best. We speak the same language. We have the same “ideals.” We know the same people and go the same places and read the same books. The people we know through AA, we know on a whole different level than people we know outside of AA. We’ve shared with them like only AAs can do.
AA as an “activity” is wonderful. There are meetings of course and they are everywhere (we go) all the time. We do it on vacation or when visiting or when bored or when stressed.
It’s been important to my personally to not have alcohol in my house, and not to have my significant other drinking it. I stayed sober for years (and not) living with my mother and her endless supply of alcohol, and I’m not at all saying that’s not possible. I just prefer it this way. I’m pretty sure I would not want to be part of social situations that include alcohol or take place at bars.
The downside. Well I won’t name names, but someone in this house has been known to suggest to someone else in this house that she “work a step” around an issue that is causing discord. Or two. Two steps or two issues. Our friends tend to know our business, which mostly isn’t a downside, but it could be. Each of us can, at times, become mildly alarmed if it seems to the other that she is working the program “wrong,” or doing something that threatens sobriety. That’s rare and, like I said, mild. I also know that it’s been hard for couples we know who have broken up in AA. They often find themselves not wanting to “share” in a way they might otherwise do if their partner wasn’t known in the program, and sometimes they have to give up certain meetings or relationships. But that happens with most break ups, I would think.
I didn’t set out to have a relationship in AA, and I wouldn’t. But being here now I really have to say I wouldn’t want it any other way. I think the program, the activities and the people give about as good a shot as anything to a relationship to “make it.” Now if only my government would agree with me.