A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps follows the original twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and as the author suggests, can be used alongside AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions publication. Written by a woman in recovery, for women in recovery from all manner of addictions, Dr. Covington includes their stories, their experiences as women in active addiction and their experiences as women in recovery.
The first time I picked up this book, I felt connected, seen, included, and empowered in my recovery—in language, in personal and professional experiences, in family and societal roles and as a mother.
Dr. Covington wrote A Woman’s Way in response to the need for a gender-specific recovery approach, one that recognizes that both the foundational causes and conditions for addiction for women and men differ, but also that the approaches to recovery that women respond to need to be different than those for men.
As a woman in recovery, I find this to be true. I feel much safer and open about my past experiences before and during the time I was drinking, as well as going through the process of step work, when using A Woman’s Way to work the steps of recovery.
By using personal experiences to frame a woman’s story in each step, I felt welcomed and relieved to see the steps through the eyes of women who had lived, loved, lost, and learned in a world I, too, live in. Much of the language of the steps is made clearly linked to our lives by providing a description of how each woman came to understand the concept of the step in words that she could work with.
In step three, for example, many women may feel that “turning our will and our lives over to the care of God” suggests that “we’ll be rescued by a male authority who will take care of us as long as we are well-behaved.”
The author goes on to suggest that rather than seeing this as submissiveness to a dominating father figure, we can see it as a surrender of our need to control (alcohol, other peoples’ behavior), that we can receive support from our recovery group and our own Higher Power, and that we can nurture our relationship with our Higher Power as “an active process of dedicating or committing or surrendering myself to something bigger than my individual self.” How this can show up is by speaking up for ourselves or by taking risks.
In discussing later steps, Dr. Covington touches on honesty in relationships and that frequently, as women, we are not honest with our true feelings for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings or upsetting them. This was true for me. I believed that if I told someone how I felt, thinking they were not going to like it, I was being a bad wife, mother, daughter, or sister.
As I came to understand from the book, the idea that it was unfair to the other person for me to hide my true feelings, and that it was dishonest as well as damaging to our relationship, took time for me to understand. I am still working on this. This line especially rang true to me: “the disturbance lives inside of us until we find a way to honor our feelings.”
Particularly women who have experienced trauma have learned to survive and navigate these situations and relationships by taking more than our share of responsibility. This reality, interwoven in many of our lives, and shared by women in A Woman’s Way, acknowledges the pain and difficulty of trauma. One way to do this is through including ourselves in our amends.
A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps, while not AA, is aligned with and based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Women’s groups that read and discuss the steps using A Woman’s Way can be found online and among some AA women’s groups.
I found such a group and deeply appreciate and learn from these women who share their wise womanhood in recovery, making each of us and the entire recovery community stronger.