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Sober, Strong and Queer!

23 Mar Posted by in • Guest Writers | Comments Off on Sober, Strong and Queer!
Sober, Strong and Queer!

I just got back from the 2012 International AA Women’s Conference.  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an annual gathering of sober women and it’s held in a different city each year. I’ve been to 19 of these meetings in places from Anchorage to Orlando, Portland to New York and Midwest cities in between.  It moves from city to city because local women ‘bid’ on hosting the conference and signing up for hours and hours of volunteer work. A host city has to be accessible to a major airport and guarantee a specific number of rooms at an affordable price. You can’t imagine the deals we’ve gotten at lovely hotels in Detroit, Chicago, or Salt Lake City in mid-February. Never mind that it’s often 14 below outside. The party is inside.

The conference is an inspiring, diverse and wild mix of women. When I first started going in 1984 (Phoenix) there was little to no lesbian presence. Of course we were there, but we weren’t in print yet. Over time our presence became more obvious, open and welcomed. At the conference in Salt Lake City we heard from a lesbian who grew up on a fundamentalist Mormon compound in Utah where polygamy was the norm. Her life had been difficult and violent. As a young teenage woman she was expelled from her entire family and community when they discovered she was gay.  She spoke to us as an out, sober and free lesbian. In Anchorage we heard from native Alaskan lesbians who faced the enormous challenges of building a life that included recovery, maintaining their cultural identities and coming out.  They shared their traditional dance and music with all of us in a performance during an evening banquet.

This year, in Washington DC, there were hundreds of us – sober, strong, free and queer. The DC conference was a fabulously diverse group.  Each night the large meetings began with an all women sober gospel group. They rocked the Marriott with their own original songs.  Needless to say, they got a lot of love from the 1600 women in the audience.

One of the featured speakers in Washington was a former nun. She shared her story and the fact that she is the only nun in America who had been convicted of 5 federal felonies during the course of her drinking (and religious) career.  For those of us with thorny parental relationships, particularly with dead Fathers, it was a healing to hear her.

Recovery means we don’t have to compulsively drink anymore, but it is not a religion. The stories shared are funny, poignant, sad and real life. There are stories of loss and redemption, alienated kids and family members, healing and not healing. The details and geographies of our stories are different, but we share the feelings: shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, confusion and sometimes hope. We gather together to stay sober, find our spiritual paths, help one another and have a lot of fun.

Lesbians from all over the country have been welcomed by a tradition in AA that states the only requirement for membership a desire to stop drinking.  Looking around the Marriott in Washington that weekend, we were there in large numbers.

The women who organized the DC conference deserved our gratitude for one of the smoothest and most inclusive I’d been to.

If you are interested in getting sober, or you are and want to soak up some superb sisterhood, check it out for next year at:

More posts by Swimgirl about sobriety here

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