I had a question from someone a few weeks ago about why more men don't go to Al-Anon. Generally, when I read that every alcoholic affects the lives of at least twenty people, then it would be reasonable to conclude: 1) that more people in general would benefit from Al-Anon and 2) not all the affected people out there are women. In my meetings, there are a few other men who attend regularly. Basically, though men are outnumbered by about ten to one. I remember going to my first meeting, where there was not another man there. I certainly did get attention which was a good reason to keep going back. Most of us don't mind being outnumbered by women ten to one!
Seriously, I do think that men's brains are wired differently. Many men aren't really good at reaching out and asking for help. I didn't know what to expect from the first meeting. Yes, it felt uncomfortable but somehow it also felt good to be welcomed warmly and for people to take an interest in me. The leader was quite the dominator of that meeting. And perhaps at that first meeting, I needed a strong voice to tell me what to do. I was at a point where I knew I had to do something, but none of the options seemed too good.
At that first meeting, I was given some phone numbers. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to call these women or not. It felt awkward. I waited several days and did call each of them. I was relieved to be taken directly to their voice mail, so I left a message telling them thanks for the welcome and that I would be back.
I kept going back to that meeting and others. Eventually, I found groups that offered friendship, understanding, and compassion. I found people who didn't tell me what to do. And I found a sponsor who was willing to work with me on the steps and traditions of the program.
There was something really powerful about being in a room full of people, no matter that most were women, who understood what I was feeling because they had been there. I knew that I wasn't alone and that I didn't have to deal with the crazy stuff in my head by myself.
There are times when I'm in meetings and a person will get going on a share that has so many details that my leg begins to shake with agitation. Or there will be a lot of crying and anguish. It doesn't matter whether these are men or women because I am learning to be patient, listen and have empathy for those who are having a tough time.
Sometimes the passing of Kleenex and the quilt raffles strike me as totally feminine. And I don't want to leave out the hugging, the butterflies, and the literature that talks about "his" drinking---LOL. But, what's wrong with a hug, butterflies are beautiful, and I know lots of "his's" who drink too.
At one of my meetings, there is a male college student who keeps coming back. He is a good fellow who has a sense of humor. It's good to see that he isn't fazed by being in the midst of women, some of whom are old enough to be his great-grandmother. He seems perfectly comfortable being there.
Sadly though, many people don't stay. They will come for one or two meetings and leave. I hope that they have found what they are looking for elsewhere because alcoholism is a problem that we can't fix, control or ignore. Its affects fall on just as many men as women. I know that I understand the tools of the program, but the affects go back so far in my life that left to my own devices, I could easily revert back to being the angry, self-pitying man I was before.
Now I can say that the women in the rooms have been awesome. They have been yelled at, physically abused, financially bereft, yet still manage to laugh and to give those hugs. Their eyes have changed from being dull and full of tears to being bright and twinkling with humor. I am grateful for their help and the hand of fellowship that was extended to me.