My recovery began while I was in a relationship with a sober alcoholic. It was my unmanageable frustration with his rage that first got me to a twelve-step meeting. I was filled with resentment that his recovery required him to attend frequent AA meetings, so when he suggested that I start going to meetings for codependents, I thought, “Oh, GREAT. Because you’re an addict, you have to go to meetings, and because you’re an addict, now I have to go to meetings? Grrrr.” But since I love to explore many different paths to enlightenment, I decided to check it out.
I absolutely hated my first meeting. I hated all the people sitting there, I thought they were all crazy, and I thought I was above them. I wanted to run screaming out of the room. I thought of all the ways in which the meeting should be changed. They shouldn’t use the word “God” with a capital “G” and then pretend that these meetings are not affiliated with any particular religion or denomination. Come ON. This program was clearly started by Christians. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they only use non-religious terms, like Universe or Higher Power? They’re certainly not referring to Buddha or Confucius. There are no quotes from the Torah or the Quran. So I felt like I was being tricked into adopting Christianity as my belief system. I grew up going to Korean Christian church, which felt like hypocritical nonsense to me. So imagine how I felt when at the end of my first meeting, they all got in a circle, held hands, and recited The Lord’s Prayer. AAAAACK!!! I also hated that after the Lord’s Prayer, everybody swung their arms and chanted with a sing-songy lilt, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it, and you’re worth it!!!” Puke. Are we at summer camp?
Even though I hated it, I’m glad I stayed until the end. I’m also glad I took the advice to try at least six different meetings before deciding if this program was right for me. Every meeting had a different vibe, different format, different people, different policies. Eventually I came to realize that it was exactly the right place for me.
I found a wonderful sponsor with a great sense of humor. She gently suggested, “When you go to meetings, just take what you like, and leave the rest.” What a concept! I don’t have to like everything that happens at meetings, and I don’t have to agree with everything I hear. All I have to do is stay open and listen for any nugget of wisdom that can help me in my life. Just be willing to learn a new tool to put in my spiritual toolbox. And every single meeting I’ve been to has provided me with some benefit. My sponsor suggested that whenever I read or hear the word “God,” I can replace it in my mind with whatever I want. The program literature talks about the importance of finding “the God of your understanding,” and that atheists are also welcome. My higher power could be the sun, or a hummingbird, or George Carlin. My sponsor also suggested that when people are reciting the Lord’s Prayer, I could silently say the Serenity Prayer to myself, or chant “Om”. And I don’t have to hold hands in that circle at the end of a meeting. In other words, I can be authentic and stay in the room without doing anything that goes against my beliefs.
As soon as I started doing that, meetings really became joyful for me. Now every time anyone shares at a meeting, something wonderful happens. I either get perspective, understanding, or inspiration. If someone shares something horrific that’s much worse than what I’m experiencing, I get perspective on my own problems and I feel so grateful. If someone shares something very similar to what I’m experiencing, I feel understood and less alone, which is so healing for me. And if the person who’s sharing is really happy and evolved and thriving, I feel inspired and hopeful that I can also get there, because that person is my peer, sitting there next to me.
There are still things about meetings that bug the crap out of me, whether it’s the format or the policies or the literature or the personalities of the people there. But I don’t focus on those things anymore. I can suggest changes to be voted on in a group conscience, if it’s important enough to me. Or I can just let it go.
When I’m at a restaurant, I don’t order food I that I hate, eat it, and complain about it. That would be insane. I take what I like, and leave the rest. Yeah. I gotta remember to do that in all situations.