Happy New Year! I did not drink any alcohol in 2019. I was almost killed by my compulsion to drink alcohol in 1984 (1983, 1982, 1981, 1980, 1979, and 1978). I am lucky beyond measure.
After the tragic election of 2016, I subscribed to the (failing, as Voldemort likes to call it) New York Times. I read with interest the other day (in the car, on the way home from an AA meeting with two other women as miraculously alcohol-free as I am) this article. A few points:
They aren’t drinking themselves numb because they are awash in oh-so-much power, or because of some pathological inability to follow rules or humble themselves, or because their outsize egos are running the show, as A.A.’s messaging would suggest. Quite the opposite: They’re drinking because they have so little power, because all they’ve ever done is follow the rules and humble themselves, because their egos have been crushed under a system that reduces their value to subservience, likability and silence.
This was not true for me. I drank because I was an alcoholic, and I believe for myself that had I evolved in a place where women ruled, I still would have drank unto death.
There are many other evidence-based options available now — from medically assisted treatments to cognitive behavioral therapy to the emerging use of psychedelics including psilocybin.
AA officially welcomes all forms of recovery in the world. The methods listed here, however, take time, money, insurance, stability, commitment. To be sure, AA takes time and commitment, but for me, the daily availability of meetings and other alcoholics to talk to helped me recover where no doctor or therapist could.
I did notice, when I first got to AA, and I still notice that it is a program designed by men for men. It does emphasize character defects I don’t identify with as stated, for example, that resentment is the number one offender. It does always mention the other side of the character defect coin, though, listing depression and fear and self-pity along with an inflated ego.
This program, which was designed to break down white male privilege, made sense for the original members: It reminded them that they were not God and encouraged them to humble themselves, to admit their weaknesses, to shut up and listen.
That may be true. However, in my female drunken existence I also needed to humble myself (my way wasn’t working and was actually killing me), so admit my weaknesses (like not being able to handle basically anything without chemical courage), to shut up (I wasn’t a big talker then, I’m still not, but all I had to add at the beginning was to remind sober people how unhappy and sick a drinking alcoholic is), and listen. Yes, listen to how to get out and be in the world sober.
It does make me unhappy that it was by and about men. My favorite AA symbol, the man on the bed, shows three men. I’m unhappy that God is the “father” and that all the presidents have been men. The main thing I can add to this canon is my witness. I am a woman, sober 35 years. I have two children who were born in my sobriety and raised by a sober mother. I have a career history or contributing, showing up with integrity and trying to serve people.
Women are the fastest-growing demographic becoming dependent on alcohol, which means we’re on our way to being a majority of participants of recovery programs. There’s no question that we need help. But we don’t need to give up our power.
I had no power when I was drunk and under the table. All the power I have today is a direct result of repeated engagement with that oh-so-male program, Alcoholics Anonymous.