Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

What’s Your Story?

The first few support group meetings I attended were rather surreal.  First of all, I was filled with remorse and regret for having to be there.  I was terrified I’d have to admit everything I’d done.  Second, I was dumbfounded listening to other people tell stories of their past.  I remember thinking, “Oh my God, do they know they just said that out loud?

Apparently I hadn’t paid much attention to the word, “anonymous.”

Even though I was filled with fear about saying anything during those early meetings people kept telling me to come back.  Silently my response was, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t be so nice and welcoming.”  I felt the story of my life was shameful therefore I was shameful and not someone they’d truly want know.

Yet they kept telling me to come back and for the first time in a very long time, I felt like I belonged somewhere without having to “do” or say anything other than just show up.  It was a pivotal experience for me.

After a while of seeing the same smiling faces I began to relax and actually get to know my new friends a little better.  Admittedly I was extremely guarded.  I only shared what I felt was “safe”, what would not cast too dark of a cloud over my head.  I was still very reluctant to talk about me let alone tell my full story.

And then one day as I sat in a meeting still bracing myself for being pegged a fraud for how I’d led my life, all of a sudden someone said something which bolted me out of my pity party.  I lifted my head, took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Oh my God, that happened to me too!”  In that moment the veil had lifted and I suddenly felt someone really could understand what I’d been through.  I perked up and listened with a more interested ear as the other person talked about how they got through the situation and how the program of recovery helped them get past all the guilt and shame.  I sat there thinking to myself, “Well if they can get past all that mess, maybe I can too.”

It wasn’t long before I started sharing bits and pieces of my story.  As I did I noticed heads nodding in agreement as to what I was saying.  This was their unspoken sign confirming they’d experienced something like that too. The more head-nodding, the more I felt inclined to speak and  the more I spoke, the less awful I felt for being me.

And then the light bulb went on.  I finally understood why we share our stories with one another.

The reason people need to share their “story” is more than just for others to know they aren’t alone in their past experiences and there is hope for a better life.  It’s also for the person speaking. By opening up about the true nature of their past they have the opportunity to realize how far they’ve come and how much they have changed.  Often people need to share their story again and again in order to fully believe the changes they’ve made.

So if you find yourself in a support group meeting and feel you’ve heard the same person tell the same story over and over again, remember, you may have gotten their message but maybe they haven’t.


What’s your story?  What messages have you not heard yourself saying?  Feel free to leave a comment or two here. 

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