Women Are Different
I wrote The Gateways- The Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality- dynamic practices that work, to open up possibilities to people- any people- for recovering from anything, using the amazing depth practices of the 12-Steps. Since it launched in September of 2016, I have had some eye opening responses to the work.
AA or any of the myriad other 12-Step programs that address addiction to: people, drugs, sugar, shopping, gambling, “debting” and more, do a great job of telling people how to do the basics. They especially do a great job if you are a male.
The Founders of AA wrote an amazing guide for this.
But the culture that has sprung up as the 12-Step Nation, is increasingly, decidedly male, mostly authoritarian and fear inducing. It can even be abusive at times, and certainly the language is more effective with people who need boot camp rather that soul healing.
And whether they want to admit it or not, women are not addressed in this culture of 12-Step –Spirituality that mirrors patriarchal religions. Becoming “Happy, Joyous and Free” is the goal of working these steps, but if you are a woman, and read any of the AA Conference approved Literature, you are told a few stories about troubled housewives who hid their drinking but finally saw the light and could become a happy housewife, or other stereotypes of the 1930’s woman seen through the lens of a male culture.
Women enter the 12-Step path beaten down and out of good ideas, just like men do, but on top of that they are riddled with shame, guilt, fear of sexual assault, and largely suffering from multiples traumas from living in a rape condoning culture. The last thing this woman needs is to have some angry guy yell at them to essentially “sit down and shut up”.
And the God they discover in working this program is all too often the one from the bible as written and interpreted by men…You know that guy…the one with an anger issue who condones infanticide, rape, imperialistic invasion of territories, and largely values women only for the role they can or cannot play in providing children…That God is the one who considers it the worst tragedy for a woman to be “barren”.
I feel so fortunate to have discovered a deep Inter-spiritual/Psycho-spiritual path through my own three decade working of the 12-Steps, but the longer I have worked that path, the less I have been able to find myself in the God of the mainstream culture. I have also found people who have bought into this tough talk version of the 12-Steps to be in some cases openly hostile to my work. A man screamed at me at a social event, I mean, SCREAMED, when I told him that my work on the Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality seems to widely appeal to women.
He started quoting some paragraph from the AA Big Book and YELLING at me that “Men and Women are JUST ALIKE!!!” The encounter left me trembling and physically ill.
So I beg to differ with this gentleman. Men and woman are not just alike, and the lovely complementarity between the male and female does not work by battering women, verbally or otherwise, into submission. I asked this man if he had ever asked a woman about this. His wife of many years sat in the booth next to him, mutely silenced by his eruption. I didn’t want the thing to escalate, for her sake, for my sake, for the sake of the patrons in the restaurant…but in answer to my question, he said, “There are plenty of women in AA meetings!!!”
So here is the other wrinkle about this work. While I have been sober for many years, I do not want to be the lady who slams AA.
It works. It saved my life. It continues to save the lives of many.
But beyond that, I am afraid.
I don’t want to be the one they talk about…the one who started to “criticize the program, stopped going to meetings and died drunk after 40 years”.
So here is what I do want to say.
People have been amazed and opened-up and enlightened and set upon a spiritual path that has sustained amazingly fertile happy joyous free and healed lives, through the Third and Eleventh Steps of AA for many years now. I am one of them.
My work in The Gateways is an open door at Steps 3 and Eleven…for women and men, for LGBTQ people, for artists and empaths and Millennials and Christians and Buddhists and athiests and Jews and Muslims and yes, anyone who would like to practice a technicolor wisdom path that also allows for deep inner work. And women who want to hide the book under their bible can read it too.
I love being a woman.
I have dealt with trying to have a voice in a world that tells women to shut up, sit down, roll over, sing higher than their register, dress for the male gaze, clean, cook, take care of children, and be silent to abuse for too long.
I love men too. And my prayer is that the practices and approaches to discovering a developmental, strength-based, psycho-spiritual healing path using the WISDOM of the 12-Steps through “The Gateways” will be used, appreciated, and worked by many over the years.
Here is how the amazing founders of AA wrote it:
“To us, the realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive, never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all.”
Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 46