This is pretty long, but I hope it's helpful to somebody.
I first started going to AA in the '80s, but I can say gratefully now, only sporadically. I quit drinking for 5 years in the '90s, on my own, and that is when I had my first bad experience with AA—which I thought I needed to get back to, instead of being a dry drunk.
I went to one particular group enough to notice that women very rarely did readings, lead, etc. But they were always to be seen in the kitchen, hovering over that damn coffee. I finally asked one of the men what was up with that, and he told me there were several "ladies" meetings in the area if I wanted to hear women. I was pissed, and stayed away for a number of years, but after treatment in 2002, I came back.
This time I was serious. But I was also in an unhappy, long-term relationship and very vulnerable. Within a month, a fellow started giving me attention, and I fell hard. He had 5 years and "knew a lot about the program". It had only taken him 2 or 3 chats to invite me over to his place, but I refused. The next night, he drove me out by a lake, and again nothing happened.
After that the head games were in full force—he told me we could never have a relationship, I only had 3 months clean & sober—but I guess it would have been ok to "have his way with me", as he freely told me had been his intent. Right or wrong, my feelings deepened, and it was obvious. But he didn't push me completely away—he flirted for several months, and I dangled on every look and kind word. I was really vulnerable, and should have known better, but that's the way it was. Eventually I settled for friendship, but whenever I disagreed about anything the condescension reared up. I was too early in recovery, blah blah.
One night I asked how his dying ex-mother-in-law was doing (he had told me about her)—he went off and concluded by calling me "a very disgusting human being". This was incredibly hurtful, but he never apologized, and went on his merry way. By the way, he had known I had been much abused as a child. Was my sponsor sympathetic? No, during her last marriage, she had heard much worse. I was not to be angry or hurt , at least not for longer than a nanosecond, because that would be "self-pity".
Being Christians, I told her that if those emotions were so bad, then Christ must have been whacked out on self-pity at the Temple. But it wouldn't have mattered what I said, she had 17 years, I had just over one—which is supposed to say it all.
I think I went to two more meetings after the "disgusting" thing, and then left for good. But I wasn't through with the guy just yet, because I really wanted to be a spiritual person, compassionate and forgiving—and not hold "resentments".
When I told him that I had lost my second sponsor, and that I had some doubts about the program, he e-mailed me back, saying, "Somehow I'm not surprised. You are incorrigible, a total addict/alcoholic...I don't think AA will work for you". What a flaming asshole.
But that experience DID wake me up, finally. I started investigating anti-AA websites—and I started thinking for myself and trusting those thoughts. After all, Think Think Think. I thought about my "friends" (particularly men) who couldn't commit to a lousy cup of coffee on Wednesday, 'cause this was Monday, and they had no idea what Wednesday would bring. Selfish and non-committal—just like old times—is this a problem with booze, or are you just a jerk to begin with?
I thought about the constant sexual innuendo coming out of certain "oldtimers". I thought about all the emphasis on humbling the ego—but whose ego is AA concerned with? When a sponsor barks at someone to "get your ass to a meeting", when someone is told to "shut up and listen", when oldtimers are exalted and newcomers put down, SOMEBODY'S ego is clearly not that humbled. Isn't this supposed to apply to EVERYBODY? That shitty "cotton" expression proves AA encourages egotism.
I thought about how I couldn't successfully get off pills while doing everything I could in the program (half the time I couldn't wait to get to the pharmacy after a meeting). I realized—I don't want to hear about booze and drugs all the time. I want it to not be a factor anymore. How is talking about booze all the time different from drinking all the time? Your mental energy is still going there. Why are you talking about a coping mechanism of 1, 5, 20, 40 years ago? Aren't we supposed to be living for TODAY? AA lets you keep alcohol in your life—you never have to say goodbye to it. Funny about that.