Mindreading, Shame, and Other Women

At the first weekend conference I attended, I was scared witless. I went because the men in my group said that there might be other women there, and evidently I needed these recovering women for my own recovery. Now, here’s the thing. I have some real difficulties with women. I have had some wonderful women friends over the years but I’ve always felt I’ve been unusually lucky because most women are twisty, evil bitches that will stab you in the back when you least expect it. One would think I have “mother issues.”

Name TagsSo I’m there at the desk checking in and there are name tags for us to wear. I had to hand back the pretty flowered one they handed me and ask for one of the red ones. How apropos. I got settled in and waited for someone I knew to show up. Eventually it was dinner time and still nobody from my group had arrived. As I walked into the dining room I quickly noticed that every other woman in the room was wearing a flowered name tag. I could have cried. As I stood there, the other women would glance up at me, notice that flaming scarlet name tag and then studiously avoid eye contact. It was a ghastly return to the 7th grade lunch room and I handled it the same way I did when I was 13. I got some food, sat down at a table by myself and pretended to eat. Even though I knew that co-addicts are in fact just as sick as addicts, in that room, I felt like the lone slut in a room full of virtuous wives who clearly held the moral high ground. And of course, since addiction is a shame driven disease I felt myself sliding down that familiar slippery slope.

And then something really good happened. A woman who had several years of recovery in sanon sat down beside me and started talking. I was too close to breaking down in tears to say much of anything back but she didn’t mind. Without me saying a word, she knew that I was having trouble being the lone slut amongst all the pure women. Looking me straight in the eye, she assured me that I’d be okay in the conference and that I was no worse than any other woman there, regardless of how awkward I felt. Of course, I didn’t believe that for a minute – but she sat and talked to me just like I was a regular person. After a few minutes I was comfortable enough to be talking about kids, weather, normal stuff.

I can’t say I got comfortable around the other women, I didn’t. They still scared the bejeezus out of me. But that one generous act still helps me manage my fear when I interact with an sanon woman.



  1. I can totally relate to feeling out of place, even online. I was scared to death to comment at your blog. It was a big affirmation that you allowed that, and I’m grateful.

  2. Oddly enough, I have had the same experience. I haven’t tended to like, trust or get along with other women — female friendships have been a recent development for me. I have traditionally been more comfortable with men. And even though I was one of those wronged wives, I never felt comfortable with the other women in S-Anon, because I was not Christian, didn’t believe in God, didn’t feel my husband was a bad person or a sinner — and because I liked sex and didn’t think porn was morally wrong (we would indulge in porn together). I always felt scared and very, very out of place. And I still feel out of place in some of the online forums where I lurk.

    I’m glad that S-Anon woman sat down and talked to you. I hope I would have done the same. But I know that I wouldn’t have been in a place to several years ago — like many of the women who didn’t.

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