Updated: Oct 12, 2020
In the rooms of 12 step recovery the sharing of experience, strength and hope helps people find a way out of active addiction. To hear another person’s story and realize that it is not so far off from your own gives you hope that there is a solution. It allows one to see and hear people who have maybe even been through harder times and have come out the other side whole. In the rooms of recovery you know that you are not alone and there is a whole community that cares about your well being no matter how far down you may have fallen.
In the last week while our country and world is being told to shelter in place there has been an expansion of a new connection that is filled with experience, strength and hope. I have seen beautiful writings, kind gestures, new ways of connecting or having meetings, people going out of their way to help others, awareness of our inextricable connection as human beings around the world. We are connected for our humanness and it is really beautiful. This is an unprecedented stream of events and we do not know what will happen from day to day—but we are going through this together.
I was raised Buddhist by my Mother and Father who started studying Tibetan Buddhism around the time I was born. We lived in New Mexico and my youngest years were as hippies living in an adobe house with only a wood burning stove for heat and cooking. We moved into Santa Fe when I was around 2 or 3 but I still remember a very simple way of living that included a lot of solitude as I was an only child. I loved being around the Buddist monks and lamas when I was a little girl, as at that time, in the early 1970s, they were very accessible. The smell of incense and sandalwood mixed with beautiful red and yellow robes and the sound of low tone chanting still swirls in my memory and makes me smile. What I learned from having Buddhist parents was that silence and being still are as important as being busy and doing. However, from a young age I remember that it was not always easy to be alone with my own mind and I struggled to feel okay just being me around other people. I feel very lucky to have had parents who loved me unconditionally and I felt accepted as myself in my home, but it was harder to be a Buddhist hippie out in the world as I was growing up. I struggled with the judgement I felt because of the mixed messages I was receiving. The message I received from my parents and their spiritual path was one of connection and love. But I was not feeling loved or accepted in the outside world. I know now that all of us felt some level of rejection in our young lives, some outside of the home, and some, even more painfully, inside the home. These messages are the foundations that are laid for our adult self and how we walk the earth. I felt that I had to be someone else for other kids to like me and so I would mold and change myself to try to please them and be accepted. When I think back on my childhood my memory is that I did not have a lot of friends and felt very alone. What became my best friend was television. A constant companion who never judged me or made me feel I needed to be someone else.
My parents divorced when I was 8 and I lived with my Mom, who wanted to be a Buddhist, but was tired of being a poor hippie. I am happy to report that my parents are still wonderful friends to this day—but there are of course hurts and resentments that I have had to work on in recovery from being from a divorced family. My Mom and I moved from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, and then Los Alamos as she went to school to get her PhD in chemistry and worked at Los Alamos National Labs. At this age I had not discovered drinking yet, but was addicted to my television and people pleasing as my escape and way to deal with general and social anxiety.
I discovered drinking when I turned 21 anasd becwame the secret to making it easier to connect with people in social situations. I discovered that when drinking I loved to be in social situations and loved going out dancing and to clubs. I still had a need to have a lot of time alone with my best friend, the TV, but now I added drinking alone to soothe myself even more. I still did not know how to just be me without the addition of something outside myself.
I discovered drinking when I turned 21 and became the secret to making it easier to connect with people in social situations. I discovered that when drinking I loved to be in social situations and loved going out dancing and to clubs. I still had a need to have a lot of time alone with my best friend, the TV, but now I added drinking alone to soothe myself even more. I still did not know how to just be me without the addition of something outside myself.
At 22 I found a life partner that liked to party as much as I did and we made a life together that included a house and kids—and friends that liked to drink like we did. I was comfortable in this world because I never let relationships get very deep. I started going to my current church a few years after my first son was born (more than 18 years ago now), but I kept a wall up, and used partying as a way to connect on the surface. Being in that community reminded me of my childhood years living around the monks where I felt loved. By now though, I was caught up in pleasing people and had no idea who I really was. I wanted what was around me in the spiritual community; it was being offered to me—but I was stuck and continued to choose to be apart from it. I chose denial, emotional isolation from my husband and friends, drinking, and of course my best friend, TV, as the way to live. I am not saying that everyday was a dark day, that is not the case at all. There were days, even years that were happy as we raised kids and had various careers. I discovered music and started to play guitar and write songs. I started to allow myself to let go of what I thought others thought of me, I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin. But, I could not let go of the belief that drinking was helping me and was a good part of my life. When the times were hard I would hide my feelings in drinks and TV and not reach out to my husband or friends for help or connection. I was still that same young girl who had trouble just being still with my own mind without a distraction and afraid I would not be accepted just as I was.
When my husband came to me over 2 years ago with the desire to be in recovery again, I have to be honest, I had gotten deep in my daily drinking and could not see a way out of it. But my life felt unmanageable and my inner self wanted to reconnect to myself and the world around me. I became willing to make different choices. When I walked back into the rooms of 12-step recovery there was an immediate sense of being seen and accepted for just who I am. I could turn my fear over to my Higher Power and begin to take action to find the solution.
I feel like what is happening now in the world is almost like we are all seeing and accepting each other in a way that is similar to the feeling I have in the rooms of 12-step recovery. This separation that we have felt in the fast pace of this crazy world has been an addiction that kept us checked out from each other. Now that we are being forced to stop and slow down, it is like as a society we can see again. I am hearing the experience, strength and hope of others who are affected by the coronavirus situation and they are giving me strength and hope. I am seeing people to reach out for help and to say that they are hurting or feeling isolated. I am seeing people respond to those requests and be of selfless service. This is not going to be easy, and it is going to take us sticking together to make it to the other side.
In the last 2 years of recovery I have discovered who I am in a way that I never had before. I am comfortable in my own skin and do not feel the need to be perfect or what I think others want me to be. I want to connect with all those in my life in an honest and deep way and want to feel all that comes with that. I do not need alcohol to feel differently—I want to feel my real and actual feelings even when they are hard or painful. I have even let go of the unhealthy relationship with my best friend—TV—in exchange for deeper relationships with those around me.
There is a solution to the human condition, and together we can share our experience, strength and hope. Together we can make change for ourselves and for the world. Let's continue to be there for each other. Let's sing on balconies, share toilet paper or groceries with neighbors, wave at people on the street, stay inside for the protection of those at risk, thank the healthcare workers and grocery store attendants, call our friends, make food with our families, attend Zoom groups, share positive messages, and pray for everyone.