Saturday, January 20, 2007

Women's meeting make a difference

I really struggled in early recovery with my relationship with women. It wasn't like I disliked them, they just weren't on my radar screen. When I was in the disease, women were competition. Men controlled the drugs and hence I sometimes "used" men for access to drugs. (Who was using whom is a matter for another day, but you know what I mean.) So women, to me, were inconvenient. Even the women I drank and used with and loved either left me due to my behavior or a new boyfriend or they died, several killed by men, one thrown out of a hotel window in New Orleans by her boyfriend. It didn't pay to get too close to women.

In early recovery, my first sponsor was a man, but as soon as I started writing my first step, I knew that I couldn't share my truths with him. I had to find a woman. I've blogged before about my first sponsor, Valorie, the one who looked like Gidget. But over the years and my many moves, I've had quite a few sponsors, all of them, of course, women. And not just "women," but strong, courageous, beautiful, tough women who were willing to confront me if my behavior was unacceptable or I was walking a slippery slope. They loved me when I felt, as I still sometimes do, unlovable. Thank God for these women.

After I got clean, I began to attend women's meetings because all my girlfriends did. The longest running women's meeting in Phoenix, now called PMS, was started in my living room by me and a few other women. I found that at women's meetings, the core issues I had, issues from my childhood, my feelings toward men, at least men the caliber of the drug dealers I was hanging around, my shattered sexuality, my distrust of any institution or authority figure, these things I could talk about freely in women's meetings.

About my fourth year in recovery, I had no support in my life for some of the things I wanted to change. My marriage was crumbling as my wasband stayed loaded, I couldn't talk about what was going on even in women's meetings sometimes because my experience, I thought, was too unique.
So a few women in Oakland, Louisa J., Constance T., Susan L., a beautiful woman named Danielle, and a few others banded together and formed, what they would have called in the 60s a "consciousness-raising group." A twelve-step format, we focused on our sexuality, what we had been through in our usage, the rapes, the getting knocked off barstools by men in a drunken rage, the domestic violence, in many cases early childhood traumas, the shame of being a woman alcoholic and addict, the whole traumatic mess of it.

We met for several years, until I moved to Los Angeles to go to work for the WSO and they continued to meet for another few years. This group was instrumental in changing many core problems I suffered with because I could explore them courageously, with support, love and understanding. Finally, I'd found a group of women who understood me and I could speak my truth.

My life, of course, moved on. As I've stayed in recovery, I've continued to attend women's meetings. They are where I check my ego at the door and talk about core issues that are still, at 22 years in the rooms, troubling me. This morning's women's meeting was a perfect example.

It was small today, about six, but we each got to share at length about what was going on in our lives. Two of the gals were newer members, one back from a slip. One was in tears over the ending of a short relationship. We know, though, whether the liaison is short or long, we often get terribly wounded as we lay our hearts on the line. One member was having problems in her business and considering "chucking it." Several of us were in great spaces and could offer some experience, strength and hope during the meeting and after, one-on-one, with the gals who were troubled. We talked frankly about things that we would never share in a mixed meeting. In a women's meeting, we cut straight to the core and we forget, for a time, about "saving face."

I go to more mixed meetings than women's meetings, but I leave a women's meeting with an incredible sense of peace, both because I've usually been able to be of service and I've identified with those core struggles we face as women.

My recovery has been so much richer from the women in my life and most of them I met at women's meetings. I see other women at mixed meetings, but I really get to know them and rely on them when I can see them, for one hour, once a week.

One of the best parts of our women's meeting is that we often carpool and we laugh the entire way there and the entire way home, often with an accompanying stop at the store or to eat breakfast and more laughter. Who can laugh for twenty solid minutes and not feel better?

There's six inches of snow on the ground and twodogs are ready to run, so I'm off. Until tomorrow, have a great day.


SCoUt said...

I hear you -- many women I know say that their women's meetings are what really holds them up.
Personally, I do not like them and do not attend any of them. I think it has to do with being queer maybe -- they are more often that not focused on sex -- and, let's face it, it is just not the same...The men they complain about are often my friends and I experience those men in a much different manner than they do....see what I'm saying?
Also, in the (only) two N.A. communities I have been in, division into men and women's group does not serve well to build unity -- it seems to divide and conquer in N.A.
Just one woman's experience.....
I am glad you get so much from them -- whatever is feeding YOUR clean time has got to be good, Two Dawgs!
P.S. I am remembering how much Scout used to LOVE the snow!!!!

vicariousrising said...

I'm glad you wrote about this, and also glad spoke out about not liking womens meetings. As a straight woman, I have very mixed feelings about womens meetings for my own personal reasons. My relationship with my mother was such a damaging one that I have huge difficulties with trusting women. Fortunately, I have had other women (grandmothers, aunts) that mitigated my mother's relationship with me, but underlying any new potential friendship with a woman is my fear that she will judge, criticize and hate me.

Knowing that this is an enormous hurdle in my recovery, I decided to bite the bullet early on and attended 2 womens meetings a week for my first seven months of recovery (until I moved to another state). I would sit in those meetings so uncomfortable, not feeling the least bit connected to the ladies there, until finally one day I spoke up and told them how I felt. They were so warm and comforting, a big weight was lifted. It was as if the mask of my mother came off all of them. Although I don't think I ever felt 100% part of the group, I didn't feel an outsider anymore.

I wish I had a womens meeting to attend on a regular basis here where I live now because I think it would help me continue to work on my fears.

Meg Moran said...

Women's meetings have been a healing part of my recovery journey. I related so much to your post. I have discovered that my "sobriety sisters" have so much to teach me, both by example and by hearing their stories and solutions. I've been in the kind of meeting Scout described...male bashing whiners just dumping. THAT is not a women's meeting. A true sisterhood is blind to sexuality choices and sets a tone that would make anyone comfortable. We share heart to heart. Follow 2dogs example....start one of your own. The rewards are many.

I have a small group that I hang with now that is similar to your "conscienceness raising group" We call ourselves a "tribe". A small, but powerful tribe.

msb said...

Not all womens meetings are the same. Just like all meetings, I always get something out of all them. But some womens meetings are the hot tuna and some just seem well clickish. I just try to remember what my focus is-recovery. Sometimes my best teachers are people I really don't want to be like. But when it comes to talking about some of those old behavoirs that really can be uncomfortable in mixed meeting for the guys a womens meeting is the only place. I always feel like I grew up when I started going to womens meetings. And best of all was when my area had enough women to start womens NA meeting.

Sober @ Sundown said...

Hi 2D,

I don't like men as much as I like women, so a women's meeting has usually been my first choice. Then, I moved to CA where everything is cliquish, and I started branching out. One of my main meetings now happens to be a gay and lesbian meeting where it's 98% men. Go figure.......

A woman from Phoenix just moved to my town. I wonder if you know her.......