Early in my recovery I remember asking my parole officer how long I would have to attend meetings. She answered with a question, “Do you intend just to satisfy the DOC or do you intend to stay sober?”I still remember how bad that pissed me off. I attended meetings every week but only because if I didn’t my parole could be violated and I could be locked up again. In my mind meetings were just another punishment. I attended meetings for four years to satisfy the DOC. I was determined that if I had to attend I was going to make sure I didn’t accidentally get anything out of it.
This meeting was group therapy and over time I met people that were just like me but I also met people that were there to try to change their lives. I began to experience a sense of community with people experiencing similar struggles. Still, when the court dropped the requirement for me to attend, I left with a promise to myself that I would never set foot in any kind of recovery group again. Probation and parole were over and I didn’t have to do anything recovery oriented again as long as I lived.
Not long after I left the group I began to realize I didn’t have things together as much as I thought I did. I had grown accustomed to the community and the acceptance I had experienced in the group. As much as I didn’t want to admit it I had even picked up an occasional tool that had been helpful in recovery. I still resisted returning to a group for several years. Eventually I recognized that the holidays, Thanksgiving to New Years was a difficult time for me and that if I didn’t come up with a plan relapse was always inevitable at some point. Through a podcast I heard about a program that was focused on my addiction and I discovered they had a group I could attend. To be honest it took me a couple months to come to grips with the idea of attending a group again. In the first meeting I experienced something I hadn’t felt since those meetings years before. As I was sharing something I was struggling with, I watched men that didn’t know me from Adam begin to nod their heads and I knew that somehow, they understood what I was going through. I began to develop friendships and community and I found strength when I shared my weakness with others.
I’ve been attending a group meeting again for years now. My regular is on Monday nights. I don’t attend because my parole officer says I have to. I attend because I have family here and if I don’t show up I miss them and they miss me. I share often that if I live to be 100 somebody will be pushing me into this meeting in a wheelchair. I attend meetings on other days as needed but every week I’m in at least one. I heard a Ted Talk a few years back where the speaker ended by saying, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of addiction is community.” It’s been my experience that this is truth.
Recently a newbie in a meeting asked me how long I thought he would have to come to meetings. I responded with a question similar to one I was once asked. Are you here to get your wife, kids, parents, parole officer, etc. off your back, or are you here to experience freedom? I don’t come any more because I have to. I come to be with my friends and family. If you want to talk with someone about your struggles shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.