Entering any new situation in life can be uncomfortable. We are so used to doing things in a certain way, that 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.
So you just walked out of the bars and clubs and into a 12 step meeting or another program for your specific drug of choice. You’re used to being hit on, valued for the size of your breasts and shape of your ass. You’ve become accustomed to the cheap, meaningless compliments from guys, who use the word baby like they breath 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?
Well 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 behaviour 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 behaviour.
You do not need anyone to tell you how pretty you are. You’re not in recovery to win miss world nor 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, claiming he is your saviour and will 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 ok 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. Right there is an example of at least two good men in recovery and how to be honest and share about it. It’s rare.
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 tits” 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 (not all) men continue to behave in an environment that’s supposed to care and protect. Beware, long term recovery does not equal absence of assholeness. This is not a cult where sexual favours with the elders is a rite of passage – remember that!
So what do you need to do, to show you mean business (as in your there for recovery not to sleep with a different guy after every meeting).
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’s 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.
this is brilliant and spot on! there is stalking, not only in person but online and even have led to murder. this is not a joke. i relapse real good over this and allowing men to manipulate me and i fell prey. i will no longer blame myself for certain things and with other things i will own my stuff. i was not strong in recovery at all. i am most definitely a love addict and like nicky said, felt somewhat good with the praise of a man..but also like nicky said, look what they say when you’re not looking..like ‘nice tits’..pigs! PIGS.. ok well i can see myself saying listen you pickle dick worry about your own dingle dangle. it happened in treament, here on itr and in real life. there is such an uncomfortable feeling about it and makes me feel very insecure and vulnerable.. while i thought praise was good, i never believed it anyway and that is where we have to praise ourselves and find the women who build us and don’t envy us. that happens too. not only men prey but women too with there gutless attempts to smear someone.. well, stand up girls..come to one of us if a guy is hurting you or hitting on you.. we have BEEN there again and again!!! i still battle but i stay sober and i have my best friend to turn to… nicky thank you so much for this.. i am sure i have more to say but it just got me going… xoxoxoxo
I think the most important thing you said was “allowing” men to manipulate you. This is what happens, largely due to our feelings of complete powerlessness when we stop using – like the bottom is falling out of our world. It’s a tough lesson to learn for many of us but we do learn – eventually. And yes women do it to men too – but the majority that prey are men and I hear all the time, as justification for the large scale sexual exploitation of vulnerable women, “oh but women do it too”. Thanks for this Jen. You crack me up!
thank YOU and for being crucial in my life! and i mean really like a fifth limb… we only have four right? lol..CAWFEEEEE please
Wow! That was such a wonderful article. I tried to tell the newcomer women this. I took the suggestion and worked on myself my first year. Then I couldn’t understand why none of the men in recovery seemed to be interested in me. I asked some of my male friends and they informed me then I had to stronger recovery. And that I intimidated a lot of the men. One told me I was unapproachable. I found that hugely amusing As I am anything but. I am still single with three and a half years clean. But I’ll tell you what I would not trade a minute of my recovery for a lifetime of one of the Predators in the rooms
You are a perfect example of what I’m talking about Nancy. If we are strong and respectful towards ourselves we are classed as unapproachable! High five lady! Good for you! Women in all walks of life are expected to be open and available – that’s the sad fact. It’s up to us to change that.
What a wonderful value of support for women. Are there any more articles that help women appreciate in depth, who they are?
Thank you for this.
Hi Linda. I’m planning on writing more. I’m working on a book for women in recovery, focusing on our femininity and female power. So many women have been conditioned into feeling less than and suppressed, even in subtle ways, that we are not even conscious that’s one of the major reasons for our dis-ease. We need to recover every part of us to find true contentment. Many thanks for your comment.
Thank you so much for this! As a woman in early recovery (5 months) and a lifetime of uncompromising situations with men (usually while drinking), I have had a twisted view of my self worth for decades. As my mind slowly clears and I begin to learn what it really means to live a life of dignity, much work needs to be done. It is articles, literature, and shares just like this one that teaches me how to respect myself and present myself in a way that demands respect from others- regardless of my past.
HI Rhonda. Thank you for taking the time to read and appreciate the article. I can so relate to your past experiences, and you are right, it is our twisted view of ourselves that causes most damage. Congratulations on 5 months. Believe me, if you continue your recovery with the mindset you have you will become a very content and empowered woman. Much love.
I was 13th stepped at 7 months by a woman with 8 years. She wasn’t the first. Addicts behave like addicts, whatever gender. The great thing about recovery is that I’m no longer lying to myself; I’m the one really doing the using, however ‘vulnerable’ I like to think I am. The inventory is mine, not theirs.
It’s great to hear from a guy David. Thank you. I agree it happens to men too. But lets face it, it’s not as widespread as men doing it. I’m sorry this happened to you and thank you for sharing it. This article is exactly what you spoke about – not lying to yourself and taking your own inventory regarding your own behavior so that you are not victimized by others who don’t care to look at themselves. People are very vulnerable when they walk into recovery first – that is a fact – whether we like to think it or not. And the greatest excuse and cop out for owning our own behavior – male or female – is the term you mentioned “addicts acting like addicts”. That’s bullshit and how people stay exactly in the same mode of behavior forever despite being clean and sober. There’s always someone willing to justify the reality that this happens far too much. Again I so appreciate your comments.
While I like this post because it focuses on the importance of recovery, I think it takes a lot away of the woman’s power and right to enjoy her own sexuality. I’m not sure if it was written by a woman or a man, so I can’t comment on what the author was thinking. But I think there’s nothing wrong with a woman wanting sex, a one night stand even. No, a woman shouldn’t be preyed upon or treated like a toy to be used, especially in early recovery. But, there is no mandate that a woman needs to build a platonic relationship with someone before having sex. I’ve been in recovery for over 4 years, and I’ve learned to embrace my sexual appetite and enjoy sex, with long-term partners that I’ve had relationships with, or as a fleeting moment between two consenting adults.
I think you’ve missed the point somewhat. You’re talking about making choices with a healthy point of view about yourself. I am 6 years in recovery and have a healthy sex life and enjoy my sexuality as a woman – because I have learned to love and honor myself. I’m not saying to anyone not to enjoy sex – which I mentioned in there. What I’m saying is to honor your sexuality and not be coerced into it or do it because this is what you’ve always done. It’s about honoring your beautiful self, no matter how long we are in recovery. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.
What an incredible message to women on this path of discovery of one self.
Great words of wisdom and I sure hope that it allows women to understand, THE OLD LIFE if left behind offers this opportunity to change or Die and it is that simple.
What it used to be like and the behaviors around giving myself to a man for the need to be loved and payed attention to had to be smashed if I want to grow in a new light and understanding.
Life sober is the path to finding our authentic self and slowly we build upon our self worth. Every journey begins with the first step.
Thank you so much Nicky for this article to empower women in recovery!
Thanks Kat. Yep there’s so much more to change than just our using – but like you said it begins with the first step.