The first time I ever thought about sharing anything in Alcoholics Anonymous was at an open discussion meeting and there were two topics. I have no recall what the first topic was but I sure remember the second which was, “having a hard time sitting with feelings.”
It wasn’t a round robin style meeting so I sheepishly raised my hand, which was the hardest thing to do being riddled with social anxiety. However, the desire to get this out of me was stronger than the fear of whatever people might have thought after I spoke.
I began speaking. I told everyone in that room that I did not know how to live life without trying to change the attenuation of my emotions, be it trying to intensify them or tone them down. Still other times I was flagrantly running away from them through multiple substances and behaviors.
Then I began listing them one by one trying to be as honest as I could:
“I’ve self-medicated using alcohol, marijuana, food, sex, relationships, compulsive cleaning, compulsive shopping, compulsive exercising, workaholism, surfing the internet, rocking out to loud music, speeding in fast cars and last but not least when all else failed isolating from people.”
Then I noticed the room was so quiet I could hear a pin drop. I wondered if I had shared too much. I felt my face feeling red and hot. My mind raced like it always does projecting what people may be negatively thinking about me. I wanted to crawl out of there.
I closed out with “thank you.” It wasn’t until the next person began sharing that my face stopped feeling as hot. I felt more honest that day, as if I had released a giant weight. It’s one thing to unburden oneself in the privacy of a therapist’s office and have them normalize my behavior but it felt like a more genuine process in front of peers. You never know if you can trust a shrink, after all they are getting a paycheck. I wasn’t sure the response I would get, if any.
After the meeting ended 5 people approached me to shake my hand and thank me for my share. I was taken aback. One of them, who later became my fiancé said,” thank you so much for your share, you just shared my exact story.”
I’ll never forget that day. That was the day I felt like I wasn’t the only leper anymore.