Category Archives: single mother

Thank you, Charlotte Kasl!


When I was attending SLAA meetings, everybody would talk about “the steps”. “Are you working the steps yet?”; “The steps changed my life!”; “Everything will get better when you start working the steps”.    The steps can be found in the SLAA basic text, first published by The Augustine Fellowship in 1986. I just couldn’t see what the big fuss was about with this book. I’ve read plenty of books on sex and love addiction, and this one was pretty unmemorable, as far as I was concerned. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I found some parts of it objectionable.

My main problem with the book is that Rich, the person who started SLAA, after being in AA for many years, was a white, middle-class man, and the basic text was written, mainly, by a white, middle-class man. Where am I – a woman – in this book? If I mentioned this to my sponsor, she would just smile knowingly, and say “Oh, but, deep down, the emptiness sexually addicted men and women experience is the same”. I’m not a moron, for Chrissakes. I know that an addict is an addict is an addict, and I know that no matter what we are or who we are, we all suffer. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are all living in a patriarchal society where women’s and men’s experiences are not the same. While I don’t doubt that Rebound Guy from last year (ugh, remember him?!) is in a huge amount of pain because of his drinking and all the casual sex he has, I doubt he’s ever felt used, and cheated, and humiliated because of his addictive involvement with a woman. That’s how I felt, though, after our little fling was over. For him, I was just another notch on his bedpost, another sexual conquest he could boast about to his friends down the pub.

In the SLAA basic text, Rich writes about the addictive sexual relationship he has with Sarah although he is married to a very pregnant Kate. Sure, it’s not great he cheats on his poor wife, but, OK, I get it – he’s an addict. Lying and cheating is pretty much par for the course, so I don’t think he’s necessarily a terrible person for committing adultery. It is, however, the way he writes about his lover, Sarah, that really disturbs me. He very subtly paints her out to be an arch manipulator. Just read the break-up letter he sends her!

Sarah,

I am terminating our relationship. I have come to realize that for all the love there has been between us, and there’s been much, at least an equal part of sickness, obsession and neurosis has been present also.

My long term needs have been consistently sold out to my getting my short term feel-good buttons pressed, and you are a master button presser. My own personal center has been thrown askew through my trying to constantly service your needs, which are also excessive

My inventory has been exhaustive and has led me to the lamentable truth that you are bad news for me. Therefore, I’m getting out now.

We are all through.

If you are tempted to contact me, I ask you to re-read this letter.

Rich

He might as well just have called her Lady Macbeth instead of “master button presser”. And look at his interesting choice of verb tenses: “my long term needs have been consistently sold out to […]” and “my own personal center has been thrown askew […]”. All his verbs are passive. You would think that some external force was making him “sell out” or “throw himself askew”, but that’s not the case at all. He was the one who chose to be with Sarah, and to give in to his addiction.

And as for the “you are bad news for me” statement….? What the fuck?! Oh yeah, Rich, in contrast, was such a catch, what with his very pregnant wife, about to give birth any second. Sure, Sarah herself chose  to get involved with a married man, but did Rich ever stop to think how much he fucked up her life? He does eventually devote some of the book to talking about the pain he caused his wife, but Sarah? Nah, she’s just collateral damage.

When my concerns about the basic text were poo-poohed by other people in the program, I began to think that maybe I was just some bitter feminist harpie who was getting her knickers in a twist for no reason. But, it wasn’t like I went out of my way to do a feminist literary critique of this book. Fundamentally, it just makes me feel uncomfortable and icky.

Going back to the steps again, I also felt strange when I looked at the some of the steps to come, especially steps 4, 5 and 6:

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.

The language in these steps is incredibly ponderous, moralistic and serious in tone, especially for people who probably have just found their way to a 12-step meeting because something very serious and nasty happened to them. I’ve had enough seriousness and judgement in my life. I need to lighten up and have fun! And by that I don’t mean that I want to get drunk and party, but just that I want to focus on the simpler, more beautiful parts of life. As Charlotte Kasl points out in Many Roads, One Journey : Moving Beyond the 12 Steps, “there are no steps about expressing love to people, having fun, celebrating life, and becoming powerful or healing the physical body” (160).

When I contemplated working step 5, it felt like it would be such a chore. Again, I felt guilty, and imagined that I didn’t want to do that step or the steps immediately after it perhaps because I was trying to avoid taking responsibility for my actions. But Charlotte Kasl to the rescue again:

The term defects of character might be apt for perpetrators, narcissists, and other exploitive people, but it doesn’t fit for shame-based or guilt-ridden people who all too easily focus on their failings and weaknesses. “Defects of character” is a culture-bound, Christian concept stemming from the idea that we are all born sinners and must redeem ourselves through a life of confession and atonement” (317).

Thank you, Charlotte! Now I understand why I had such a negative reaction to step 5. Why would I, somebody who has beaten myself up forever, want to focus on my “defects of character”. Of course I need to take responsibility for the bad things I’ve done, and the people I’ve hurt, but I’ve already done that! I can’t spend one single second more obsessing over how I’ve fucked up. I desperately need to realize what’s good about me for a change!

Coming Tomorrow: A list of all my good qualities!

After-Scare!


So, you might remember that I recently did an intensive five-week outpatient Dialectical Behaviour Therapy group therapy class. If you can’t be bothered clicking on the Wikipedia link I provided, which describes what DBT is, let me explain briefly: it’s therapy that teaches life skills to people who have trouble with emotional regulation. Or, as I like to call it, it’s “Anti-Crazy-Ass Bitch Therapy”.

Everybody who “graduates” from the intensive group therapy classes is entitled to free after-care – one session a week every Wednesday night for six weeks. Free health care?! In the US?! Well, hell, I was certainly intending to take advantage of that as was the new friend I met in the DBT class. So, off we both toddled to the after-care classes where I expected to learn how not to smash all the dishes in my kitchen when I’m pissed off to continue to utilize all the wonderful skills I’d learned about before.

The first session was fine. The therapist who led the group must have been approaching sixty, and she was small, cute and rotund. She looked like your favourite elderly aunt. The second session did not go so well at all, and upset me considerably, which was quite a feat on the therapist’s part given that I arrived in a perfectly good mood, as calm and level-headed as could be.

She pissed me off immediately by telling me that I shouldn’t be dating anybody ” for a year”. Now, I agree that I shouldn’t be rushing into a relationship any time soon, but, hell, what did she expect me to do for a whole year? Sit in my room for 365 days swearing off all contact with men, only to launch into the dating world on the 366th day? But, more to the point, why the hell was the woman telling me how to live my life? And in such a rigid way?!

At this point, I was still looking up to her as a sort of cuddly, granny-like figure, so I was only mildly irked, but things took an even worse turn when I started talking about how the most depressing thing about turning thirty-five is that my ovaries are getting old. My therapist – who clearly does not understand the phrase “rubbing salt into a wound” – agreed and said “Yes, they are getting up there”. Um, OK. Way to go to make me feel good about my rapidly declining fertility.

I know that I would be very sad if, ten years from now, I didn’t have a child just because a suitable man never came into my life. When I broke up with MM, my first reaction (well, for all of two minutes) was to think “Shit! I’d better get out there on the dating scene to find a baby daddy”. I soon realized that this would be the act of a desperado. I would like to find love and companionship again but I’m certainly not going to settle down with the first half-decent dude who comes along just so I can pop out a sprog before I’m over the hill. I have therefore decided that if I am still single at the age of thirty-eight that I am going to either (a) hit the sperm back or (2) seduce some handsome dark-skinned young man in, hmmm, say Brazil or Argentina. Please spare me the sanctimonious rants about how I’d be be using my white privilege to exploit somebody from a county where people are less privileged. Quit complaining, and stick a fucking condom on your penis if you don’t me to use your sperm. It’s that easy.

Anyway, I told the therapist all of the above minus the part about the sperm bank/my Latin American cougar dreams . You know what? I might never end up in that sperm bank. I might never get to shag some hot young Latino and shamelessly use his sperm for my nefarious purposes. But the thought that I could do these things to have a child if that’s what I want is a damn sight better than sitting at home every night, knocking back a bottle of red wine and bemoaning childless singledom (and a dearth of potential good mates). Hell, if thinking that gets me through this divorce and makes me feel empowered about the choices I have in life, then so be it.

Grandmother therapist had other ideas, though. In front of the whole class she said that I “should not” be a single mother: I “should not” do that to a child and that “a child needs two parents”. “Aye”, I thought to myself, “it would be nice to have a helpmate so that I could nip out for some cocktails of an evening”. Actually, that’s a huge lie. You all know how it’s easy for me to slip into guilt, and that’s exactly what I did. I thought that I must be a really selfish person to have considered being a single mother. I was totally bewildered and felt awful. Then this huge surge of anger rose up in my throat and I realized the woman was being a patronizing and controlling bitch! Therapy is not supposed to be about “shoulds” and “should nots”. Even if you don’t agree with a client’s life choices, you are supposed to gently (gently, lady, gently!) guide them to look at all angles. You’re not supposed to humiliate them in a room full of people.

So, um, I let the bitch have it. I did, mercifully, refrain from completely cussing her out, but I let her know in no uncertain terms what I thought of her so-called “therapy”. The tension was so high in the room that two men left the room. The women all stayed (we’re used to cat fights, haha). I have since heard from my regular therapist (who used to work in the same place as this woman) that several other group therapy attendees have had a similar experience with this person. This makes me very angry because a lot of people in these classes are extremely fragile. I am actually the only one who wasn’t committed to a psychiatric ward at one point because of a suicide attempt. Thankfully, I have a rapid return to baseline, so, after a wee cry and a cigarette, I had gotten over what she said, but her words really affected me for a few minutes. I’m just glad that I’m not the type to take BS and go home and brood about it later. I dread to think what could happen if she said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time in their life.

I’m toying with the idea of writing a letter of complaint, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. Thoughts?