Recently I experienced something different with a new and dear friend. He took me to one of his AA meetings. While I’ve heard about them for years and had contemplated attending one when someone close to me was struggling with addiction, this was my first. I was awed.
While many of them don’t allow visitors and are closed, this one was open and they warmly welcome family members, new alcoholics or people simply interested or needing guidance. For me as a paramedic, an empathetic person and a family member of an addicted person, I found it profoundly moving. That a group of complete strangers can gather together to tell their individual stories and help one another is a concept that many groups could take a hint.
I was first struck by the varied and heterogeneous group I saw! The room was filled with men and women both young and old, bikers, business people, well dressed, dressed down, tattooed, pony-tailed, smoking, non-smoking, coffee-drinking, water toting, bandannas, pierced, fresh-faced, lived hard,gray haired, no hair, bleached blonde hair and with kids in tow– but all with one thing in common: alcohol. Some had been dry for a day, some for 40 years!
It was a meeting where some from other groups got up to tell their stories: who they were as alcoholics and who they were now and how AA had helped them. The honesty and raw human sharing brought me to tears. I haven’t had a drink in many years, and never did have a problem with it, but I’ve had my share of demons. And I know what it’s like to face them and lose and face them again! These were some of the lucky ones that found a way out, a way through their pain, their darkness into the light and into a supportive atmosphere. They are on the path to healing.
So many of us stay tucked in a ball of ourselves when we are in pain not wanting anyone to know we are hurt. They call it ‘guarding’ in the medical field when you have a part of your body that is hurt. But I saw the power of what sharing your pain and your story can do. Maybe you will fall again, but in the right group, or with the right person, they will help pick you up. If you are alone, you will stay curled up and hurt.
Learning to ask for help can be the hardest thing to do. Admitting and knowing we have a problem is the first step toward healing. Once we reach this step, reaching for the hands on the top of the stairs will pull us up to the top of the landing. And from there we will see the horizon ahead: the blue sky, the sun and the hope that we can’t feel laying alone at the bottom of the staircase.
So remember, if you know someone who is in need of support–any kind, remember to reach out and lend it. Gently, lovingly and with your caring heart. It’s a gift money can’t buy.