I know that I sound like someone who drank the recovery cool aid when I say that AA saved my life. But girls like me from Sunnyslope, Arizona generally have babies young, get addicted to something awful and can expect regularly scheduled beatings from their live in boyfriend.
Girls like me don’t get sober, marry someone nice, have a couple of kids and get to spend peaceful weekends on the Cape. AA is what changed the course of my life.
However, I was distressed to read this essay on The Fix about sexual predators in the meetings. I spent the weekend thinking about how to keep yourself safe in the halls if you are getting sober.
First, there are some suggestions in AA that address this problem. You will hear,
Women stick with the Women, Men stick with the Men.
Also, No relationships in the first year.
Once you take the drink away from the alcoholic, your thinking becomes muddled. Your brain will feel like mush for a good year or so. What seemed like a sober fairy tale your first year might look very different to you once you get some time under your belt. It is taboo to date a newcomer in the halls. Anyone who does it isn’t taking your sobriety seriously. If they care about you, they will wait until you are more stable.
Second, be especially on guard at big open speaker meetings. Anyone can go to an open speaker meeting. Some of the people there aren’t even alcoholics, and they might be there to prey on instable kids who are trying to get their life together. Also, the courts order people to go to AA for all sorts of reasons. Those people do not want to be there, and they flock to open speaker meetings.
But be particularly weary at young people’s meetings. I think that if you are young and getting sober, it is really important to find other people you can hang with. I definitely encourage you to go young people’s meetings. But be vigilant especially of people who are over thirty. Think about it, they aren’t young. What are they doing there?
Closed meetings are generally safer. You can also find Women’s Meetings and Men’s Meetings. Great recovery happens in those groups. Make sure that you are rounding out your meeting schedule with smaller groups.
Third, get a sponsor who is the same sex as you are.
Finally, AA is full of whacked people. Digest that reality. Everyone there is a drunk or an addict. Addiction is a spiritual disease, and the people in meetings are spiritually sick. I think when a newcomer first gets sober it is easy to believe that AA is a safe place filled with wonderful friends.
There are many, many wonderful people in AA. You will make a lot of friends. But it is a complete mistake to not recognize that just because a person is sober doesn’t mean that they are not dangerous.
Think of it like this. When you were drinking, you wouldn’t go into a bar or a party and automatically assume that you were safe. You would probably go with friends that you trusted, and you would check in with them from time to time. You’d watch your drink, and you wouldn’t go home with anybody (unless you were so inebriated you lost your common sense).
Those people at the bar are the exact same people in the church basements at the meetings. Don’t assume that someone is safe just because they are sober. That is true even if they have a lot of sober time. An alcoholic rapist who gets sober is still a rapist.
Use your alcoholic skills to sniff out the people you can trust and stick with them. Keep your bullshit meter on, not off.