One of the most fabulous things about recovery from addiction for me is rediscovering women. I never had a lot of women friends, and recovery really made me depend on them. It is suggested that most of my support come from the same gender especially initially. There’s the obvious reason for that in that you really don’t need the sexual temptations to complicate early recovery. But, I discovered another reason this weekend, and it totally fascinates me.
I went out to lunch with some friends from my 12 step group, and it ended up being an outing where I was the only woman among about 7 men. My first reaction was “This is my kind of party.” I actually didn’t know these guys really well, so I kind of just sat back and listened. I know…it’s hard to believe that I might be quiet, but I am sometimes. And I discovered something really interesting. It’s amazing how I learn things when I shut my mouth, open my ears and really be present.
These fellow recovery travelers began talking about Step 6 and their experiences with Step 5. Now, I’ve discussed these steps with women and, of course, my sponsors, but I’ve never heard it discussed quite this way. It was such a subtle difference that I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t relating to it right away. The way they described the Step 5 “relief” was so literal and so physical. One mentioned that he could feel a part of him fall away when he took some time to be by himself. Another started describing how his “ego reconstructed itself” when he relapsed. I don’t know if even quoting what they said would be enough to illustrate what I heard. When women talk about spiritual changes and shifts, it’s very emotional. It’s inside. It’s something not seen and only felt. It seemed as if these men were describing something they could see or maybe even touch. There were seemingly separate entities that moved away or came back or launched an attack. I have never described my shifts like that. It was just so different! I found it absolutely fascinating.
A few years back, I found a piece of literature called “A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps” by Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D. When I first got into recovery, I really had a hard time with the language of the literature that we used. To be sure, it was originally written by men and for a group that consisted of mostly men. The language of the program seemed harsh to me and sometimes it even offended me. I knew that this was the answer, so I just dealt with it. But, when I found this book, it helped me shift my perspective a little with more feminine language and a gentler feel, although nothing in recovery is really gentle. I even feel a difference in women’s meetings. We’re just more emotional, and I feel really comfortable in that energy. The mixed gender meetings have a different feel to me. They always have. This lunch just helped me understand why.
I could be totally off base here, but it seemed to me that the genders experience spirituality differently. I mean, God is God. And, if you believe we are made in his essence, God is both masculine and feminine. There is both because masculine and feminine are different. Why wouldn’t we experience it differently? It makes perfect sense. We experience love, connection, communication and sex differently, too. Women are much more emotional, and men are much more physical. I was part of a women’s group where we were trained how to process our feelings and how to assist other women in processing theirs. There was a “brother” organization that did the same thing with the men. From what I understand, the men’s process work is about breaking down the physical and bringing them to a breaking point so they can access their emotions and be vulnerable. The first women’s weekend was set up the same way, but it didn’t work. Women need to be supported and led through a process that supports emotional ebbs and flows. Once they changed the process work to be more supportive and introspective, the women’s weekend was more successful.
I was really fascinated by the conversation at lunch the other day, and I feel pretty honored that I got to hear that and experience it. I talked to a male friend of mine in recovery tonight about it, and he encouraged me to write about it. I’ve mentioned the book, “A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps” to another male friend, and he was very concerned that the language might be changed a bit and that it may take away from the program. And, that’s a valid concern. But, the steps don’t change. The essence of the program doesn’t change. It’s really just the feel and the energy of the program that allows women to describe spirituality in the emotional way that we feel it. I’m so glad I have the opportunity to see how both genders experience the power of recovery. And, I continue to crave more.