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Entering any new situation in life can be uncomfortable. Changing our mode of behavior to one we are not familiar with, feels like we are floating in open water with no life buoy. Some of the greatest examples of this can be seen in early recovery – or recovery in general for some. We often carry our old ways with us into new situations, only to discover old behaviors don’t serve us and are not appropriate nor needed any longer. For many women, our sexuality has been an issue. Many of us have had it manipulated or shamed. Valuing your female sexuality in recovery is a layer of healing I hadn’t considered previously.

In The Begining

So you just walked out of the bars and clubs and into a 12-step meeting or addiction recovery program for your specific drug of choice. You’re used to being hit on and valued for the size and shape of your body. You’ve become accustomed to the cheap, meaningless compliments from guys, who use the word baby like they breathe air. Tragically somewhere along the way, you came to value this bullshit as a way to boost your self-esteem. Perhaps you’ve been treated like this all your life. Isn’t it a fact that, despite our perceived evolution, women are still held in the highest esteem if they are pleasing to the eye? And isn’t it true, that many women are still performing this vomit-inducing dance because that’s all we value about ourselves?

Here’s the deal

If, as a woman, you want to find real freedom and real recovery, you’re going to have to take a look at the societal illusion created for you, about what makes you valuable, and how you view and value yourself. You are never going to change the behavior of others, but you can change your own. That’s where self-empowerment begins and the emergence of self-love, dignity, and integrity – the most precious of human values.

Here’s what you don’t need when you decide you want to make your life better and decide to recover from dependence on a chemical or behavior.

You do not need anyone to tell you how pretty you are

You’re not in recovery to win Miss World or be hit on by some creep. You deserve respect. Unfortunately, it’s not given freely so most women have to demand it. You are strong and beautiful without anyone’s approval or validation.

You do not need a sugar daddy 20 years older than you

Some guy claiming to be all-knowing and all-seeing is not your savior and will not help you stay clean and sober. He may blow your mind with his knowledge of the Big Book or its equivalent and have a quote to suit any life situation. Remember, these guys came from the bars and clubs too. Apparently, it’s perfectly okay to victimize and harass women sexually because nowhere in the big book does it say you shouldn’t (yes that is given as an excuse on a frequent basis). I’ve only ever heard one man talk about his despicable behavior towards younger women in a meeting. He talked about how he justified his overly zealous interest in younger women and was able to disguise it from himself because he mostly talked to them about recovery. It was his sponsor who pulled him up on it and told him to get honest and quit the crap. There is an example of at least two good men in recovery and how, to be honest and share about it. It’s rare.

A personal experience

Just last year I sat having coffee with two male members of my home group. The eldest one, with over twenty years in the program, began speaking about a female newcomer. He began to comment on how sexy she was, and how the other male in my company would love her. “She has huge breasts” was his exact words. The other guy looked completely uncomfortable, which solidified the fact that this conversation was completely inappropriate. I was struck dumb with disbelief at this moron, who not only disrespected me as a woman having to listen to this but was also disrespecting this obviously vulnerable newcomer. After throwing up a little bit in my mouth and giving him my opinion on the subject, I left. It really did teach me a lesson though. This is how many men continue to behave in an environment that’s supposed to care and protect. Beware, being present in long-term addiction recovery does not equal the absence of assholeness. This is not a cult where sexual favors with the elders are a rite of passage – remember that!

So what do you need to do, to show you mean business

Firstly you need to have a clear understanding of why you are there in the first place. Many women have been sexually exploited all their lives and it’s hard to shake that off when you have learned to use sexuality to your advantage. Believe me, shaking your panties in the air will not serve you in any manner in recovery. It will only alienate you and make what’s supposed to be a safe place for you, a very dangerous place.

If you’re lucky, you will have another female take you aside and explain to you that you’re only continuing to damage yourself. If you’re not so lucky you’ll end up with a string of men you’ve slept with, a suitcase full of empty promises, and a nice big relapse to contend with. Listen when I tell you – you are far more precious and matter way more than you ever thought possible – even if you don’t believe it right now.

You are in recovery to quit substance abuse and change your life – completely

You have no idea how empowered you become when you honor your femininity instead of abusing it and using it like candy. You will also stop attracting the ones who haven’t dealt with their sex addiction (there are many of them) and learn to have healthy platonic relationships before even considering sex.

Other women are your lifeline. Even if you learned that competing with other women was advantageous and normal, you now need to adopt a new mode of thinking. There will be women the men don’t talk trash about and seem to avoid like the plague. There was this one woman in my group just like that in my early recovery. I couldn’t understand why the men weren’t hitting on her. She was really beautiful and graceful yet no men really showed much interest in her, at least not outwardly. I discovered a short time later that she was that dignified, warrior type who kept her recovery community for just that – recovering. She was the epitome of what a recovered woman is and luckily was a huge influence on me. Strong women will be your greatest allies in life, in or out of recovery.

Let’s face it – life would be non-existent and very boring without physical intimacy and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The point is though, that many of us are already sufficiently damaged and vulnerable without allowing ourselves to be further manipulated. There are amazing men in the recovery community but when we are vulnerable it’s not the amazing ones that are likely to be making their presence strongly known to us. It is your responsibility to teach people how to treat you.

There are predators everywhere we go in life and many of them see absolutely nothing wrong with what they do. That’s why it’s important to focus on yourself first and work on the issues in your life that are troublesome. No other person can save you or make you happy and content. The greatest gift I’ve ever given myself was complete honesty about my deepest held beliefs regarding my femininity and working on valuing and respecting every part of me as a woman. Just one woman in any group who holds herself with utmost respect can change and empower the entire female population of that group. Let you be that woman.


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