GateHouse Treatment recently opened a women’s program and in light of that Rocky and Bri discuss gender-specific treatment on this week’s episode of Bigger Than Me. Gender-specific treatment has pros and cons just as co-ed treatment does. In treatment the focus needs to be on getting better, not worrying about the opposite gender, it carries into the rooms and how we can learn how to form meaningful relationships in all aspects.
Rocky starts off by saying, “When I come into treatment my life isn’t working in any form…within week two, I’m now telling techs don’t tell me how to live my life.” Which is very true, the alcoholic ego is a strange thing and recovers quickly. When we enter treatment, we are broken and can’t stop using and often hate ourselves. As soon as we get some sleep, a hot shower and some food we start feeling better. Then the moment we get attention from a member of the opposite gender, that becomes our focus because that makes us feel good. It also takes the focus off us because now we’re focusing on someone else.
Men and women often have very different consequences from addiction. While the underlying issue of addiction is the same, the way addiction plays out in the lives of men and women are often drastically different. In gender-specific groups it gives the clients a chance to get vulnerable, a girl isn’t going to talk about rape or sexual trauma in a room that has mixed genders. The same goes for men; they’re not going to get vulnerable in front of women because men typically want to be perceived as strong.
Mixed gender groups often don’t present the same opportunities to dig down deep and share what’s going on, and let our wounds start to heal because nobody wants to be judged. The judgment of our past actions is something that we do to ourselves enough. We don’t want it from the outside as well. When the focus is taken off the outside such as our appearances, and we stop viewing other men or women as competition we can start to form bonds with the same gender.
In meetings, it is strongly suggested that men stay with men, and women stay with women. That’s because someone who has been through what you’ve been through and has been able to come out on the other side can help you do the same. Learning how to form relationships with the same gender while in treatment in a healthy atmosphere, makes it easier to begin to form relationships in the fellowship.
Rocky brings up a good point that even “normal” people in relationships tend to isolate from their friends when they get romantically involved with someone. In recovery, especially early recovery, being able to form bonds with people in the fellowships is how we learn how to stay sober. It’s not just a matter of blowing off friends; it’s a matter of saving your life. When you work a spiritual program, you begin to see the fellowship as a whole. This opens the door to forming healthy relationships. Not even romantic ones, you can begin to form healthy friendships with either gender.
Rocky also brings up C.S Lewis’ concept of “The Four Loves.” When we focus on the other loves without an understanding of Agape (unconditional “God” love), we cannot get an understanding of our Higher Power. You cannot find your Higher Power in another person, you have to give yourself a chance to develop a relationship with your Higher Power.
Rocky said the way that he learned how to give himself when he didn’t want to, wasn’t in a relationship with a woman. It was through sponsoring another man and showing up when he didn’t want to. Rocky explained it as a cup, when we go into treatment, our cup is often empty and has been for some time. When we start working with the same gender and forming healthy relationships with them, our cup begins to flow over into opposite gender relationships.
The atmosphere created in a gender-specific meeting is unique to each gender. The atmosphere when you walk into a women’s meeting or a men’s meeting is completely different than walking into an open meeting. When we can form relationships with the same gender, it lets us grow. We don’t have to view each other as competition any longer. You must get comfortable having a relationship with yourself and people who can help you through sobriety before you can focus on a romantic relationship