Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dogs and Predators

Yesterday was the final basketball game of the season for Sabrina's team, against their rivals from East, at the high school itself. East had a fuller squad this game, and although it still wasn't much of a contest, it wasn't the kind of rout that made one wince like the game a few weeks ago. West ended up 13-1, with the loss by two points, and it's becoming clearer with every passing season that at least in basketball and softball, the Binghamton school district has a very talented generation of kids en route to the high school level. Before I get into the main part of this post, I want to add that Sabrina attended the winter softball clinic in the afternoon yesterday, and there is a possibility she is going to be asked to try out with the JV team this spring; two of her former teammates in City League have talked her up to their coach enough so that he is coming for the clinic next week to see her work out with the 6th and 7th graders. I'm not getting my hopes up too much for her, but obviously she would be pleased and delighted, and so would I, to bypass Modified entirely. We will see.
Back to regularly scheduled blogging... one reason the game was closer yesterday was the presence of one of Sabrina's friends from Roosevelt on the East team, who missed the first game because of a doctor's appointment. I know her parents very well; both were part of my life since very early recovery, and both have been more or less part of the recovery community here all along, although she has stepped out a few times and he currently is a guest of the county. I saw the mother at halftime sitting on the other side of the stands, and I spent the second half getting caught up with her. She has been through hell the last six months, and obviously so has her daughter, and I'm not here to air their personal pain this morning. It's never pretty when relapse occurs, and it's even worse when it occurs after a significant period of time.
But one thing she told me did draw my attention. Her marriage ended as the result of the events last summer, and she recounted for me, both in wonder and disgust, how many men in recovery immediately began to hit on her. She gave me four names, and hinted there were others. Three of them were good friends of her husband. Three of them have significant amounts of clean time, two of them nineteen years or more and a third who had gotten to nearly two decades a few years ago before relapsing. Part of me was dumbstruck--aside from the fact of the closeness of the relationship between the woman's husband and these guys, the woman was--and still is--a near-total mess emotionally and mentally, who quite literally struggled not to lose her mind (and the battle still isn't over yet). What kind of self-centered, morally vacant animals try to bed a woman in this situation? What kind of deficient wiring courses through their minds? How do they sleep at night, or real? How can you possibly justify this kind of behavior, when it's just you and your own thoughts? Have they any sense of decency?
But part of me was not dumbstruck, because in a couple of the cases it was typical behavior. One guy I've written about before, for physically abusing women; at the time she told me she was being pestered by him, he was playing two (much younger) women off against one another, one of them pregnant with his child. Another I've never mentioned, because he had checked out of the rooms several years ago after two decades clean, in large part because he had invited a using woman into his home; that situation became the most morally challenged atmosphere I have ever seen, as the man's daughter ended up prostituting out of the home with his full knowledge and approval. A third guy she mentioned has also been around for a long time, although I barely see him anymore; I got the impression he wasn't as skeevy as the other two, but still, inquiring about a woman that is the wife of one of his best friends' availability as her marriage is imploding and her sanity is teetering on the edge really doesn't speak well for one's character.
It is a long-standing problem in NA circles, the predatory male. And even though everyone has their own set of character defects that we bring in the door with us, that take even longer to deal with and change than the actual drug use, there still needs to be a point where accountability is demanded. For one thing, it's not just about the men themselves. Like it or not, we are all part of a larger fellowship, and we represent that fellowship by our actions and behaviors to the world at large, and by indulging our character defects--especially in this particular area-- we are not only harming those in the rooms we are preying on, but we are affecting those just coming in or those yet to come. I've been aware for years that many chemical dependency treatment professionals try to steer women in early recovery away from Narcotics Anonymous, and even though their motives are based more in their own latent fear-based racism than anything else (and even though there's just as much predation in AA), it's guys like these that provide justifications for that stance. For another thing, it is an article of faith in recovering circles that spiritual principles are unchanging and eternal--and there is no way that this behavior can be rationalized as being spiritually based in any way. Even those who vaguely cop to having "issues" with womanizing never give voice to the details--and one reason why is that it is completely indefensible at this level. There is a reason why these pursuits take place away from prying eyes and in one-on-one situations. Then there are the children to consider, too. Most women in recovery have kids, and most of the men do, for that matter, as well. One of the aims of being in recovery is to ultimately break the unhealthy cycles, the values and beliefs and imprinting that led to addiction in the first place. Children learn what they see, and when what they see is hypocrisy, predation, and the inflated value placed on sexual gratification--what do you think is going to happen as these children get older? Kids end up practicing what they have learned and seen from their parents. And fourth, the women themselves already suffer from serious self-esteem and self-worth issues. Preying on them in times of distress and upheaval certainly doesn't help them recover, and the last thing we should be doing is adding to their burdens by causing them to lose faith and trust in the very group of people that we are supposed to be depending on for help and support.
I want to make clear that I am not a saint, and that I am quite sure that many actions of mine that have involved women over the past thirteen years does not meet ideal standards of behavior. I have indulged in casual sex; I have gone back for more with women that I knew I had no future with; and I know that doing things like spending money on people you're having sex with, though an exchange does not take place as you're getting dressed, is morally ambiguous in many cases--and I have done all those things, some quite recently. But I can tell you without a doubt that I do not and have never stooped to the depths of behavior this woman described to me. I simply cannot live my life in thrall that much to the great god Penis, and I honestly do not know how other men can.
This is the second time this week that I saw this kind of moral nihilism on display. The other night, a young woman that goes to a meeting that I frequent told me she stopped at a restaurant that the boyfriend of one of her friends works at--and that he went on break, came out and sat at her table, and within moments was pestering her for her phone number. Granted, the behavior wasn't quite as egregiously bad as hitting on someone who just came out of a DV shelter, but still, I'm sure he didn't go home and tell his girlfriend, "Hey, guess who I saw at work today?" either. And the sheer delusion of a lot of this behavior, too, kills me at times. In this particular case, what kind of thought process would make the Lord of the Fries think that a college student with magnificent job prospects in the future and no shortage of suitors is just dying to get with his skinny 115-pound ass? I see guys with no jobs, no cars, no prospects at all of anything significant happening in their lives regularly hitting on women with jobs, with houses, with children, with functional self-esteem. Do you really think they're just dying to mate with your foolish, transparent, nothing-going-for-you selves? And yet they keep at it, every time they see someone come in the room. As I mentioned, this sort of stuff hurts everyone in the long run. It turns women in recovery off men in recovery, which kind of sucks for men in recovery like me who aren't like that. It means those women just coming in the rooms with very fragile senses of themselves who do succumb to blandishments end up with more baggage than they came in with. It means that guys coming in the rooms get the idea that it's OK to be a satyr, as long as you stay clean while doing it. It means that the kids of those in the fellowship are getting marginally better, if at all, role models than those whose parents are still addicted to drugs.
And most of all, it perpetuates the misery that we came into recovery to escape from. It would be nice if some of the men around here had Higher Powers that were not located two inches below their navels.

No comments: