HOW I LANDED IN A 12-STEP GROUP

By Elisabeth Klein: chairs

I was doubled over on my counselor’s couch, my head in my hands, on the verge of hyperventilating.  I had just finished sharing yet another incident that had left me feeling undone in one of my relationships, when my counselor suggested, “I really think you might want to try AlAnon.”

I looked at him through tears and disdain and yelled these classic words, for the hundredth time, “But I’m not the one with the problem!”

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I found myself walking into a church in the next town over.  I sat down, repeating just one silent prayer, Let me not know anyone…let me not know anyone… 

I looked around, feeling as uncomfortable in my skin, in that room, with those people, that a person could be.  Someone from church. That’s just perfect, I thought. All my problems will be out in the open now. Just then, my eyes caught sight of a sign that said what is said in this room stays in this room.  I hoped it was true.

The leader began reading out of a notebook.  She spoke of things that sounded foreign to me, given my situation.  That things weren’t as hopeless as they once thought.  That joy and contentment could be found.  That there were solutions.  She even had the gall to proclaim that the way we begin to heal is to go through the twelve steps of recovery ourselves.

Inwardly, I screamed, again, “But I’m not the one with the problem!”  I was furious at my counselor for suggesting this ridiculous meeting.  I was furious with the leader for saying those ridiculous words.  And I was furious with the person in my life who really did have this ridiculous problem.

Then the floor was ours.  I knew that I wasn’t going to say a word.  In fact, I debated whether to bolt or if I could sit it out for the next hour.  People began to share.  I listened to their stories with part-curiosity, part-disgust, I’m sad to admit.  I’m one of you people? I asked myself. I don’t think so, I answered confidently.

My counselor told me to expect to feel uncomfortable and to try the group out four times before making a decision.  I’m not a quitter by nature, so I told myself I’d go back, despite how much I never wanted to see that place or those people again.

Week two, and a shift came.  I started noticing that when people shared, it wasn’t necessarily about what the addicts in their lives were doing to ruin their lives, but how they were handling it – the good and the bad.  And I heard myself say under my breath, with resignation, Oh crap, I’m one of you people.

I came back.  People welcomed me by name.  They let me borrow their books.  They gave me a hug and plenty of knowing smiles.  This time, the sharing struck a different kind of chord with me.  One man talked about losing his marriage to alcoholism and how he was trying to put his life back together, and how he now saw all the things he had done wrong, trying to manage this unmanageable disease.

And with tears in my eyes, I sighed, “Oh. I am one of you people.”  And I realized that maybe I did have a problem.  And that perhaps I was addicted to something, or more to the point, someone.  And that everything was about to change. And that I was home.

To find a local AlAnon or AlAteen meeting: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org

Elisabeth Klein is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, and Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage.  Visit her online at www.elisabethklein.com or https://www.facebook.com/elisabethkleinwriter.

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