Hooking Up In The Program

One of the oldest topics discussed by AA and NA members (and others) is the idea of finding romance in the program – or, as the younger generation calls it, hooking up. We see it all the time, no matter what fellowship we go to, mostly because it is such a natural thing for people to do. First of all, many of us come to 12 step meetings after having destroyed many of our previous relationships so we find ourselves “single” and healthier than we have been in quite awhile. Plus, if you add the “hole in our soul” that we used to try and fill with other things, it’s a perfect recipe for the “mating game”.
There are many negative aspects that have been talked about with this subject – everything from “13th stepping” {experienced members hitting on newcomers} to “taking the focus off of recovery/sobriety”. Many people feel like it is a direct threat to someone’s well-being…the idea of becoming obsessed with romance and have that overshadowing the healing process. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this very sensitive issue.
The arguments against dating in the program are kind of different with respect to newcomers as opposed to people who have over a year or two. If you’re new to “the rooms”, it is really crucial that you get a foothold in what’s going to be a life or death thing before you get distracted by anything, much less a new romance. That’s a ‘no-brainer’. However, if you’re one of these people who has to have somebody, most people will agree it’s better to make it a recovering or sober person than some abusive, still using character from your recent past. The important thing is that no matter what we do, as newcomers or long-timers, we have to make sure to keep our program first. Without that, nothing matters.
So, the first piece of advice against hooking up in the rooms is that it can become anything from a minor distraction all the way to a full blown obsession. Feelings are always involved and that’s dangerous for us. Another argument against it is that many people expect meetings to be our “one safe refuge”. The place where we can talk about anything and not have to worry about this and that. An atmosphere of flirting can ruin that.
How about a positive or “pro” for dating in the program? Here’s one, although it can be thought of as indirect; the thought of seeing somebody we’re kind of ‘into’ can get many people to make sure they come to meetings – where, without that, they might have skipped it. Many of us have admitted that checking out some attractive members was a big part of our excitement in coming to meetings in early recovery. But then again, we can be so crazy that if we go to a meeting and our ‘dream person’ isn’t there, we may jump up and leave the meeting. Not good. So, just like many issues we face, there’s going to be good and bad.
Probably, the best way we can approach this is, number one, to talk to our sponsors about it and be honest with them. Don’t just tell them what we think they want to hear but tell it like it is. Secrets are dangerous. Maybe then they can at least give us some behavioral boundaries or words of caution based on years of experience. They might remind us of the awful possibility that flirting in the rooms can lead to us or someone else getting hurt. That’s tough no matter how long we’ve been clean and sober. It’s all very rocky terrain with land mines and potholes everywhere. But on the good side, anything we can do to keep our meetings and the fellowship in the center of our universe – even if it’s seeking love or flirtations, in addition to recovery and friendships – is a good thing.
So let’s talk about dating somebody in the program. We all know that in so many ways we’re not like other people. We have our own language and definitely common interests. So that part is good. However, we know from ‘jump street’ that we’re going to be hooking up with somebody who probably has a lot of issues. That’s what our disease produces…tons of baggage! But it’s usually stuff that’s not too different from our own little set of ‘luggage’. Problems we can actually share in – solutions we can come up with together. We know our “wiring” – so that’s a big plus in not getting too shocked later on down the road if troubled waters show up. Probably not that bad of an idea, dating each other. Although, naturally, that presents a whole new bunch of problems – like taking each others inventory or trying to work each others programs. Many of us have tried to use the desire for sex as a justification for hooking up at meetings. But really, how many of us can engage in that without catching all kinds of feelings; possessiveness, jealousy, attachment, hostage-taking, love, infatuation, etc.
There’s really no way to look for romance of any kind in the rooms, without setting ourselves up for the posibility of a nightmare. It doesn’t mean we can’t try it, but we better be careful. And certainly, it is the kind of stuff that newcomers should definitely wait, at least a little while, before attempting.