“I was in and out, in and out, in and out.” The one famous cliff hanger that always kept my attention from the stories of those who suffered. Sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear how they fought the battle of their addiction. I was eighteen the first time I sat in a 12-step meeting. I do not exactly remember what made me enter those doors that night, possibly a suggestion. At that time in my life, denial was my only real companion. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. I must have screamed that over and over in my mind as I entered young and anonymous.
Picture This, Young and Anonymous
There was this little church right off a quiet road, that looks as if it was about to be swallowed by trees. The clock read around 7:26 pm. It was a Thursday, and it was the beginning of winter. No snow, but you could hear the leaves scratching and dancing on the black pavement. Cigarette smoke filled the air, and you could see the steam rising from the foam cups. The one thing that stood out to me the most was the people. The laughter stretching from their lungs smiles glazed on their faces. It seemed odd. As I sat in my car and watched the people, I felt as if I was glued to the seat. It wasn’t until the effort to get out of that car that felt excruciating.
The last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone, or even worse introduce myself, as an alcoholic, which I wasn’t – as so I thought. Once the doors of the church shut, I knew that was my cue to enter.
The door did not lead right into the main room of the meeting. Lucky for me, it entered a hallway. I could smell coffee instantly, my next cue. “I’d better fix myself a cup,” I said to myself. From the tiny kitchen, I could hear, “Good Evening!” I then thought to myself, “great, for the next hour, I’ll be stuck in a room with happy people, twice my age, talking about this whole recovery thing.”
My mindset was so negative, and God forbid I kept it open long enough to hear something different, something I didn’t tell myself. But then again, I was eighteen, and I believed I had everything already figured out.
Welcome to Tonight’s Meeting
“My name is Bill, and I am an alcoholic.”
“Hi, Bill!” Shouted the room. I believe I had a five-second delay with the response. As I sat in my chair, people in front of me, turned around and smiled, welcoming me. I continued to hear others whisper welcomes to me as I sat with my legs crossed, head up, eyes open. I continued to remind myself to listen, just listen. As minutes passed, people in the meeting started to read from clear view plastic papers. I did not understand the readings. “How it Works” or “The Preamble,” they sounded like the rules of this whole AA thing. During the last reading, I did space out returning to my original thought, “Why am I here?”
“Please welcome our speaker Heather” Everyone started to clap. Off guard, I placed my coffee cup down and clapped. “Wow, what an honor to be here,” she stated smiling. “My name is Heather, and I am an alcoholic!” “Hi, Heather!” Shouted the room, again, I gave a delayed whisper.
“12 years of a wonderful life given to me by this program.” She proceeded to go into detail about what happened, what it was like, and how bad it got. She talked about who was in her life and who eventually left. As she told her story, I thought of mine. I pictured my loved ones’ faces, the storm I created, my stomach started to turn. To think of the unforgivable damage I had done and how it may be so concrete at this point I will never be able to fix it. As tears began to fill her eyes, they started to fill mine. For once, in a long time, I heard someone else’s voice rather than my own. Identifying, listening, and, most importantly, relating.
Once she finished her story with, “Thank you for letting me share,” everyone in the room clapped and smiled. I looked around and saw others wipe away a tear or two but smiled. One-by-one hands rose, begging to be picked. Unafraid to place their thoughts and feelings out in the air. Congratulating Heather on her success and her story, also for being vulnerable enough to share it with others. The stories I heard the strangers that surrounded me share were simply beautiful. Also breathtaking with some. Words of wisdom and encouragement, but messages filled with love.
During this time, a small percent of me wanted me to raise my hand and scream for someone to help me. This overwhelming feeling of wanting to be nurtured came over me. Unfortunately for me, I could not find the courage to do so. Once the meeting was announced over, everyone stood up, formed a circle, and began to pray. I knew the words of the prayer, and for the first time in a long time, I said those words. And I meant them, every word. Before anyone could reach out and talk to me, I made a quick exit to the white rusted church doors. I darted for my car, got in, and sped off.
Feeling so emotionally overwhelmed, I held on to the steering wheel with a tight grip. Luckily, each light on the road turned green. I felt I was escaping faster from what I just experienced. I began to cry, no not just a tear or two, I mean cry.
Not because I was scared or happy or even confused. It was because I knew from right there. I belonged to the fellowship.
Katie Quinn, Primary Counselor
Victory Bay Recovery Center