Updated: Jan 29, 2020
I first learned about Holly Whitaker when reading Catherine Gray’s book, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. Both Whitaker and Gray are brilliant writers. I follow them on social media, as they were both a major influence during early recovery. I admire their courage and respect their individual perspectives around sober living.
Over the weekend, Whitaker was published in the New York Times. Her article, The Patriarchy of Alcoholics Anonymous, has been a topic of much discussion amongst my A.A. sober lady friends and friends trying to create a healthier relationship with alcohol.
I enjoyed her article because it's a provocative read, which I love and it sparks controversy along with conversation, which I also love. Whitaker has built a business around sobriety and generating interesting content that evokes brand awareness is ultra savvy. Good for her.
However… you knew that was coming, right?
The idea Whitaker presents in her article about women who subscribe to A.A. are somehow giving up their power, is simply untrue. To believe that A.A. has not evolved and has remained stagnant since the 1930s is also untrue. I have not been trained that questing A.A. is a form of denial. My sponsor, a badass powerful woman, has given me the space to create my own connection to A.A.
What is most disturbing is that the article neglected to consider that A.A. could be composed of strong sober women, who are critical thinkers and intellectuals. We are not robots who blindly follow the rules of A.A. We are not in constant anguish over our inability to drink like “normal” people. We are not painfully living “one day at a time.”
We are all the things that are cool and hip. Some of us do not have the privilege to create blogs and write books about our individual stories and use public writing as a recovery tool. But we can attend meetings where we can talk about our struggles, celebrate our achievements and build community.
At face value, the Twelve Steps Recovery Program can sound a bit ridiculous. “Turning our will over to the care of God. Asking God to remove our shortcomings. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.” Yes, this all sounds kinda nutty. It makes it easy for those who have not experienced a Twelve Step Recovery Program to judge it.
I am certainly not saying that we have to experience something to form an opinion. I do worry that criticizing A.A., a well-respected recovery program will offer people a further blanket of denial. If not A.A. than what else? This article does a great job of pointing out everything that is wrong with the program, but it does little in providing alternatives.
Of course, I will still read Whitaker’s book, Quit Like A Woman. The woman is a damn good writer. I’ve already read the first seventy pages in the sample section in iBooks and can not wait to buy the book tomorrow. I will still recommend her blog to other sober women I meet in A.A. The beautiful thing about sobriety is that we can write our own stories. Digest all the information available to us and make our own decisions as to what works for us, without having to wrong one method in favor of another.