Women and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: A Gendered Narrative
This paper examines how women “work” the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) from a gendered perspective.
Feminist critics of AA have
- challenged the language of AA’s Twelve Steps,
- the spiritual nature of the steps, and
- the male-dominated culture of the Twelve-Step program.
This paper offers insight into how women in AA approach, interpret, and utilize the Twelve Steps to recover from alcoholism.
Through survey and narrative data, findings suggests
- that women working AA’s Twelve Steps become empowered and
- change for the better in spite of the male-dominated culture and language of the Twelve Steps and
- regardless of the difficulty they may have encountered in completing these steps.
In particular, the first three steps-the “surrender steps”-
- encourage women to let go of their alcoholic obsession and
- begin a spiritual path of recovery.
Steps Four through Nine require
- women to “clean house” and
- get rid of old self-destructive ways so that they may develop a new and stronger sense of self.
Finally, on completing Steps Ten through Twelve, women
- experience a spiritual awakening and
- then, in turn, “pass on” what they have learned from the Twelve Steps to other women in the program.
Woven throughout these women’s experiences is
- an acknowledgment of gender and
- the role it plays in how they work the Twelve Steps.
In the end, these women express a sense of personal empowerment that is particular to a gender-specific orientation to the Twelve Steps of AA.
Research; Jolene M. Sanders, Women and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: A Gendered Narrative. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, Volume: 24 Issue: 3, 2006