“So, my Aunt survived a plane crash a few decades ago. And it was just as terrible as you’d imagine, she said. They had to dump fuel out, and people were praying and crying, and it was just an absolutely horrific experience. But every five years or so, she’d get together with the other survivors of that flight, and they’d have a reunion of sorts. I really had a hard time imagining why in the world anyone would want to relive the worst experience of their life. . . yet again, after barely surviving it, initially. “
“That was before I came to meetings.”
And so another recovery meeting started with a woman sharing this story, and I was struck immediately by her comparison. I threw my head back and laughed out loud at the absolute truth of that last sentence. When I first got sober almost four years ago, I was determined that I would not be one of those “lifers” that I’d see in meetings, week in and week out. These jokers had decades of sobriety, why in the hell are they still attending meetings?!? Didn’t they “get it” by now? It never occurred to me that those silly meetings and the connections they’ve made with other survivors, are exactly how they are staying sober. That’s it, you guys. It’s really that simple.
She went on, “it’s like we all went on an absolute shit vacation and we’re meeting back up to talk about how terrible it was and yet, we all know there’s a standing reservation for us to go back at any time because even though it was shit, it was an escape, wasn’t it?!” We all nodded our heads in voracious agreement at her spot-on analogy. The one thing all of us have in common is that we decided we could not continue to live like we were, any longer.
The first time you find your bitter ass in that cold metal chair in the basement of some church staring reluctantly at a bunch of strangers, it’s glaringly obvious that somewhere along the line, your life got off track a smidge, and as much as that sucks, it sucks a whole lot less when you realize you are not alone. The shame and stigma of alcoholism goes a long way to push us into a downward spiral that only worsens with time and isolation.
“We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives our lives meaning and purpose, and without it there is suffering.” – Brene Brown
Here’s the deal; you don’t graduate from alcoholism. There’s no finish line. Life keeps happening with all it’s ups and downs and those “silly” meetings are what can keep someone from making a terrible decision, or can be the hope someone needs to hear to make it one more day. I once heard someone compare it to church, “you may not always love going, but you usually feel a little better when you do”. As I approach this fourth year of sobriety, I use my recovery meetings as a touchstone of sorts. They keep me grounded, and connected. They keep my crazy in check, and sometimes I even can offer some help to someone else, which is a double win.
It takes a lot to ask for help. It takes a lot to admit you need help. It takes a lot of courage to walk into a meeting for the very first time and I can attest to that, but I can promise you this; if you can find the strength to extend out your hand, someone will grab it and I can also promise you this as well – it won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it.
And, really? What do you have to lose? For me, as with so many of us, it was my life.