I watched you come into our room for the very first time tonight. I don’t know who you are, or exactly why you are here, but I can guess.
I know one of the most common reasons. It’s usually desperation born of torment; you come seeking relief from the turmoil that you are experiencing now. The world is closing in and you need some space between you and your immediate troubles, or things have been going downhill for a long time and you just can’t take any more.
Another common reason someone might wander into a 12 step meeting also has to do with desperation. Someone they love is an addict or alcoholic and they want to help them. I don’t know, that could be you.
It could be that the court sent you. A judge has offered you a get-out-of-jail-free card if you’ll attend some 12 step meetings. You want to endure whatever this meeting is about, get your paper signed, and get the heck out of here.
Maybe you’re just curious. You’ve had some troubles and you figure there could be something, maybe some pointers, you could learn that will help you reset your course. One or two bad things have happened and you’d like to avoid it happening again if you can.
I’m fairly certain it’s one of these. If I guessed right, then I already know more about you than you know about me.
You’ll have to come back for a few more meetings before you start to know who I am, but there are some things that I can’t wait for you to know.
I would like to believe that if you knew some of these things it would help. I want you to benefit from what is here, the power of this room, as soon as possible. It’s frustrating sometimes, to know what I know, and know that you can’t know it all at once.
I have sat in that chair, the one you are sitting in now and looked at the faces in the circle. I’ve wondered the same wonderings and thought the same thoughts. If you’re like me, you looked around the room and decided that you have nothing in common with any of these people. It’s not true of course, but it will take more than one visit to see just how much we share in common.
We call it a fellowship. A special relationship of brothers and sisters, that often times never extends beyond the walls of this room. We are more candid and honest in this room, with these relative strangers, than anywhere else in our lives. It’s not because we like talking about our lives or our feelings so much, in fact it goes against our very nature as addicts; it’s because this honest communication is healing. It’s healing for the one who shares and the rest who hear.
We are a support group; not group therapy. While it is therapeutic, we are not analyzing you. We don’t need to analyze. The nucleus of the group already understands the problem and we are familiar with all of the symptoms. In fact, the better we understand 12 Step, the less likely we are to get caught up in the minutiae of each individual problem. The better we understand the solution, the more we gravitate to experience, faith and hope. We testify of the steps.
And that chair you sit in, it has a curse. It can be overcome in just a little time, but it’s always there the first time you sit in it. You look into the faces in the circle and you feel judgment. There may be a little judgment, or maybe no judgment at all, but regardless of reality you will feel that you are being judged.
The curse of that chair begins to wear off with time. Looking back at you are not judges, but members of the same fraternity. Among us are those who have cheated on our spouses; some of us have lost custody of our children due to neglect or abuse; some of us face jail time for DUI or other offenses related to our addiction; and some of us have done things that we consider so bad that we dare not reveal them. We know how bad it can be. You cannot shock us.
Sometimes when you see an expression that could be taken for judgment or pity, you may well be looking at the face of true empathy. Rarely in life do you meet people who can sincerely understand what you are going through, but in this room you will. Not only do they understand, but they know that there is reason for hope. In this room we are all witnesses to the miracle of recovery through 12 step.
Earlier I mentioned the power of this room. It’s real. It comes as a direct result of the broken hearts and contrite spirits of those who attend. If for no other reason, we need each other. The group draws that power like a magnet. You don’t even have to understand what it is for it to give you peace and calm. You don’t even have to understand it to commune with it and find inspiration.
I hope that this little chat has helped you to understand me and who I am. Maybe you’ll find exactly what you are looking for in this room. Maybe by understanding who we are, you’ll not hesitate to ask for help and suggestions. I hope so. My very best advice for this, the first visit, is to keep coming back.
One last thing before I close. You may be curious as to why I would take the time to share these things with you, a stranger. It’s part of our philosophy in 12 Step that, I can only keep what I have by giving it away. We come from a world that is cutthroat and every man for himself, but here my efforts to help and encourage you pay dividends of sobriety. In this room you are just as valuable to me as I am to you.
~Duane Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story