I have sponsored many women in AA and find at that at an alarming rate women and more likely to relapse over men ( or women if they are gay) than any issue related to the temptation to drink. It is very likely that the same situation exists for men but I do not have any experience with it. I have written about this before in a post called the 13th Step the common term used to describe dating in the program. Since I wrote that post in 2012 I have seen disturbing evidence that women seem to have great difficulty giving up the harmful practice of forming casual relationships long after they have had their last drink (again this may also be true of men it is just not something I have personal experience of). I use the word casual because that is what the relationships look like however, for many women they expect much more. This expectation is usually driven by our own need for security and a false ideal of what happiness in a relationship looks like. I have come to believe that the addictive mind has real trouble differentiating harmful from healthy and nowhere have I seen this to be as strong as in the whole dating issue. I have seen women go back out again and again when the difficulties of being in a toxic, loveless relationship gets too much for them.
So what causes women to continue with the practice of getting into destructive toxic relationships which threatens their sobriety and therefore their lives? My own personal experience has been that they do not thoroughly work the 4th step on the sexual inventory. For some reason sponsors are weak on taking sponsees through this part of the step and sponsees avoid it. The Big Book says (Page 70) “If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts of our experience” to add to that these are facts of my own experience and AA’s who do not clean up this area of their lives do drink. If I could change one thing in the book I would change the sex inventory to “intimate relationship inventory” because I actually believe that people avoid it because of the idea that they have to talk about their sex conduct. It is naïve of us to think that as a group of people who had such trouble with all relationships that we would be any better in our intimate relationships which require a much deeper commitment than most others. The book recommends an overhauling in this department and maps a clear concise and effective way of doing it. I found that many years after I got sober working this part of the 4th step thoroughly gave me insights into my behaviors which helped me have a much better marriage as I stopped the selfish, self centered behavior once I became aware of it in the step work. I did not stop it overnight it was deeply ingrained but I prayed and asked God to help me and over time I became a lot easier to be in a relationship with.
In today’s digital world with match.com and many other dating sites it is very easy to amplify this area of our lives and find dates which let’s face it if they are on match.com are probably not much of a an ideal partner. If ever looking for love in the wrong places was appropriate the online dating scene has to be a great example. I have no doubt some people have found love this way but for us AA’s with our vulnerabilities, insecurities and fears it is a treacherous place where we can be seriously taken advantage of.
So back to my original question Is Sexual Addiction a primary addiction in many AA’s? I honestly think that the need to be loved, cherished and taken care of is stronger in some of us. Much of it goes back to childhood. It is our addictive personalities and behaviors which drive us to stay in fear, selfishness, self centeredness and inconsiderate behavior. If we thoroughly work the entire 12 steps exactly as laid out in the big book our ability to have a happy joyful relationship greatly increases. We stop doing things for the wrong reasons and for example, if we discover in our inventory that many of personal relationship decisions were driven by the need to selfishly be taken care of financially we can stop doing that and start getting into relationships as equals and for the right reasons. So although I see this as a very dominant problem in some women in AA I believe that living the spiritual life offered by AA will greatly improve the destructive behaviors. I am not at all sure there is a primary addiction just a drug of choice and its the personality that comes with being an addict that is the problem rather than the substance or the behaviors we become dependent and act out on. When we get sober if we do not find a solution for the spiritual side of the disease which I found through the steps we can replace “we are powerless over alcohol” with “we are powerless over (fill in the gap)” (men, shopping, food, people pleasing), eventually “fill in the gap” becomes alcohol again.