Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
The Power of WE – Addicts Saving Addicts.
To look at the buildings’ exterior you’d never know that lives were being saved there. Church basements or meeting rooms all across the world are doing it – saving lives, one addict or alcoholic – one day at a time. If you’ve never been to a 12 step meeting and wonder what it’s like, picture this. A group of diverse people – of all ages, shapes, colors and economic backgrounds, who have absolutely nothing in common other than their addiction. Under any other circumstance these folks would never be hanging out together. But these aren’t ordinary circumstances, they’re extraordinary ones. And the courageous folks gathering in the rooms will share one intimate, life-changing hour together. To get an idea of the diverse characters attending the meetings, just imagine the cop hanging out with the dope dealer, or the escort hanging out with the suburban soccer Mom. Picture the judge having coffee with an ex-prisoner or the old-timer senior citizen, befriending the 19 year old meth-tweaker who is brand new to the program. Whether you tilt a few too many or guzzle it by the gallon, the 12 step movement is unimpressed. They’ve bought the shirt and wore it out. In other words, they’ve been there and done that. Hang around the rooms long enough and you’ll hear slogans like; live and let live, take it easy, first things first, just for today, or keep it simple sweetheart. And while these may sound like simple suggestions, they’re not. When it comes to addiction and recovering from it, nothing is quite as simple as it seems. Addicts and alcoholics are used to living a dramatic and chaotic lifestyle. They struggle with balance. They’re impulsive people who function within the ridged parameters of; all or nothing, black or white, yes or no, good or bad, my way or the highway, etc. In other words, there’s no grey area. Patience, balance and flexibility is very difficult for these strong-willed folks. Addiction isn’t just about drugs, either. It’s a lifestyle and without the familiar chaos boredom can easily set in. Learning to engage in healthy activities, takes time. New love relationships are frowned upon in the first year of sobriety. Switching addictions can and does happen. You might see a cocaine addict get clean, but then struggle with flirting and sex. The same endorphins and dopamine in the brain are stimulated, detracting the newly sober person away from their own recovery into focusing (obsessing) on their new love. To say it goes badly, is an understatement. Most often both parties will end up relapsing and pick up, where they left off. If you were sitting in the rooms, you might be amazed to hear addicts ‘tell on themselves.’ For many of the population it’s normal to wear a mask. Very few people know how you truly think or feel. But with recovering addicts, their lives depend on being able to take the mask off. In fact, big mouths get better faster in this program. Addicts must ‘out’ themselves and the more people who know about their struggles, the larger their circle of support will be. While many ‘normies’ would be uncomfortable with the idea of ‘exposing’ oneself, once you get used to doing it the payoff is sweet emotional release. It’s like coming home and putting on your old comfortable jammies after a long grueling day at work. Once you start sharing there’s no holding back. The connection one feels in these rooms is nothing short of a miracle. Unlike confession, there’s no priest. Instead there’s a room full of people nodding their heads, making eye contact and crying with you. While your story might not be the same as everyone else, the feelings of shame, hopelessness and despair are identical. These folks know exactly what it’s like to have walked in your shoes. Even better, you don’t have to sugar coat your story. The people in these rooms can handle the truth. If you feel anxious at the thought of sharing, you don’t have to. No one makes you do anything. Just by being there, you leave feeling better than when you came in. It’s difficult putting the experience into words. There’s power in WE. 12 step meetings are closed and open. If you’re curious or think you might have a problem, or love someone who does, I suggest you check out an open one for yourself. But be warned, once in you might not want to leave! Personally, I find that most people like the concept of honesty, acceptance and the spiritual freedom to define what does and doesn’t work in one’s life. As the Big Book states, ‘If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.’ These steps create the necessary changes one needs to make, to promote a successful and happy life. Not a bad trade-off for a couple hours a week, huh? With professional help, inpatient treatment and 12 step support, you can end the cycle of hopelessness and relapse, and live a life beyond your wildest dreams! If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential number for support. 844-451-0263.