If there was one thing and one thing alone that I could say about women, it would be, without hesitation, that I feared them.
I don’t mean the shy, kick-at-an-imaginary-can, aw-shucks, afraid to ask Jenny-Sue to dance at the junior high sock-hop kind of scaredyness. I am talking unabashed terror. ..utter and unbridled fear that would push me to not only not go to any social events where they were, laying in wait to destroy a kid like me with their jagged glittery fingernails, but to avoid completely in my entire day-to-day life. Where this fear emanated from was something I hadn’t been able to pinpoint exactly, and frankly, knowing about this Ground zero wasn’t important.
What was important was that I dealt with it.
Now, when I fear something or someone, I react in a myriad of ways. In my case with women, I was apt to divide and conquer. To demonize and then run for cover. To attack before being attacked. To base my own feelings of self-worth to how I was viewed or wanted or unwanted by women. To live and die at my ego’s bidding. And nothing screams more at an ego than attention from the ladies. And borne of this mishmash of perverted ideals, of ego inflated and crushed, of a toxic combination of booze and fear, a Lady Killer was born.
Where this put me in the Grand Log of Lotharios was in the index section under “User”. I used and used and used women. I used them for gratification on all levels, I gained their trust and broke it, and I pushed to get them to notice me and when they did, I pushed them away. I put them up on pedestals and then bashed them down with a sledgehammer because they didn’t meet my expectations. They never could. I used them to make me feel good about myself. I used. And that never manifested itself in pretty ways. I never physically abused anyone, but my words and actions and complete dismissal of their spirit was more harmful. I wasn’t Boyfriend of the Year or Husband of the Year material.
Ironically enough, it wasn’t the ladies that the Lady Killer targeted. It wasn’t until later on I realized that the real target in all my (self) destructive behavior was me. The instrument, the weapon, was women. And of course the instrument got dented badly as I wailed on myself. I continued to mangle my self-value and worth through the love-hate relationship I had with women, or to be more accurate, the idea of what women were to me. The idea and the reality were never tethered in any capacity that was healthy. What I expected and what I got were radically charged in difference. I set up the pins and knocked them down with a bulldozer. I corroded what little self-esteem I had through the acid of unfulfilled validation, of corrupt ideals and morals. I was drinking from the salty waters to slake a thirst that could not be filled.
The Lady Killer was slaying me.
It wasn’t until I started my recovery from alcoholism that I started to learn about myself which eventually started to show me what I did and why I did what I did. It was in the inventory process where I started to see the truth, my truth, in how and why I behaved the way I did. It wasn’t an absolution of my actions, by any stretch, but it was the keyhole in which I could peer in and see the core of those truths. Fears of all kinds drove me – fear of rejection, abandonment, not being seen, destruction of manhood, etc. were all driving that bulldozer in which I ripped into my own life and the lives of the women in my life. Ego rode shotgun. My whole purpose wasn’t to drag down and destroy others; it was to destroy myself because I knew no other way to react to my life. Drinking, of course, was the first and continued attempt to react to life.
I am certainly not alone in being “defective” in the realm of love, sex and romantic affections. In the inventory process, there is a separate Sex Inventory, which we seek to find the truth about how we treat the opposite sex (or the sex we find attractive). It’s not about the act of sex – it’s deeper than that. Consummation is but a tiny part of what drives our defective values and actions in the territory of love. In fact, it’s almost the denouement of the storyline when it comes to toxic relationships. But we look to pinpoint where it is that we veered from the natural state of love and respect for the opposite sex. It wasn’t a pretty thing to observe and describe, but it helped me see the wreckage. It was no longer time for blame or simmer in navel gazing. I needed to heal. And that is what the process allowed me to do.
Today, it’s vastly different. I have come to terms with many of my old fears, old habits, old way of looking at and dealings regarding women. I have learned to respect myself, and that respect has naturally extended itself to others. My self-value has grown to show me that valuing other men and women is vital to my spiritual growth. Being around sober women, young and old, newbies and long-timers, has shown me that my struggles are no different than theirs. There may be some differences in how we approach each other on a social level and in innate natures that are demonstrated in other ways, but respect is still respect. I rarely approach a new woman at a meeting, unless I am directing her to another woman. I don’t sit and eye up the ladies. I see souls, not skirts. I see my mother, my nieces, my wife in the women I run into now. I don’t see something to be conquered, but someone who is conquering on their own, who is learning to love herself, who is learning to be in the world.
I’ve told the story of seeing a young woman at a meeting a long time ago. She was new – I could tell as she was with her mother and they were both crying. The next day I saw her again at another meeting and asked her if she got any phone numbers the night before. She said no, so I introduced her to a woman in the program, then left. I would see this young woman now and then, but we never spoke much. It was the first time that I had done something like that, and was proud of myself (to which later and old-timer chastised me for feeling good about it by saying “That’s what you’re supposed to be doing! Now get off your high horse!”)
I was at an AA conference last night, and I ran into that same young woman. She was showing a newcomer around. She shook my hand and told her friend, “This is Paul. At my first meeting, he handed me a big book and told me to get the number of other women. I have never forgotten that. Ever.”
And I won’t forget that either.