I just returned from the 19th Annual “It’s a She Thang” convention in Seaside, Oregon yesterday. The ladies who organized the event did an amazing job, as usual! Great decorations, great speakers, and 500+ women with varying “ages” of sobriety. I believe the longest sobriety was over 45 years and the shortest was 2 hours.
I remember the first time I went. As I shared with some of the ladies I traveled with, this particular convention was like nails on a chalkboard for me that first time…for the following reasons:
- A group of women. Ugh. Giggling. Hugging. Matching clothes. Make-up. Hair. Feelings. More feelings. Ugh.
- A group of women sharing a house…overnight…and I would have to share a room with one (or more) of them.
- I would be there for an ENTIRE WEEKEND!
- This smaller group of women would be joining at least 500 other women! (Is it possible to die from estrogen asphyxiation?)
- Did I mention that there wouldn’t be any men?
- There would be several planned events…including meetings. So, I would be leaving the group of women to go to meetings with women. My choices were: a) Be with the group of women I knew. b) Be with groups of women I didn’t know. c) Jump into the ocean. It was September…too cold. d) I could take walks, but if I was gone too long – since these were women – they would come looking for me. So, I could only be gone for so long. d) I could take naps, but not too many. Then, they would worry about why I was sleeping too much, and would want to talk about it. I didn’t need any group therapy. OR, e) Suck it up and accept the choice I WILLINGLY made. As you can see, my choices were limited.
I whined to my sponsor about all of this and she gave me the usual, kind, practical advice I needed that sounded something like this: “Fake it til you make it. Look for the positives, instead of the negatives. Say thank you. Pray for help. Be grateful that ANYBODY wants to spend ANY time with you. Listen more than you speak. And, remember that I love you very much.”
Ugh. How could I argue with that?
As with 99.9% of things in my recovery, I did what I was told (and the EXACT OPPOSITE of what my diseased/addicted mind told me to do) and everything turned out better than I EVER could have expected. Many of the women I was at that first convention with 12 years ago are still in my life today. They are now my family…the people I call when I am faced with my most difficult challenges. We laugh our asses off; we say crazy shit; and we party just as hard as we did when we were drinking and using (only without all of the bad consequences)!
When I look back on my fears around meetings, conventions, and groups I link it all to my ego. I was afraid I wouldn’t look cute or cool enough. Maybe I would say something stupid or people wouldn’t like me. In the case of women…well…I have A LOT of issues being around women. They are all based around fear and ego, as well.
There are also “rules” and “norms” in groups. I’m expected to act a certain way and do certain things. Some of these things are easy and some aren’t. At some meetings, it’s okay to use bad language. At other meetings, it’s a sign of “poor spiritual growth” and immaturity to use “bad” words. (I’ve actually been told that I’m not working a good Program or following the spiritual principles if I say words like “shit” or “fuck”.)
Damn…that sucks. Heh, heh.
The cool thing about meetings, conventions, and groups is that there are so many of them that I don’t have to go to ANY I don’t like. Hell, I don’t even have to go to any face-to-face meetings! At one point in my sobriety, I could only go to one face-to-face meeting a week. The rest of them were synchronous, online meetings. That worked best for my schedule. This is why I encourage you email me a list of meetings that I can add to the “Stuff to Help, Enjoy, Share” page if you know of any that are online. Or, if you know of any conferences that you would recommend to others that are in your area for ANY recovery group, that would be greatly appreciate as well. As you will see, there are already a variety listed. I’m trying to compile a nice resource for visitors to the site from (literally) around the world. So please, don’t be shy 🙂
In closing, getting and staying sober is hard, no matter how you do it. For me, even though I struggled in groups, I knew I had to get used to being around people because I couldn’t get sober alone. I just couldn’t do it. If you have been able to, I would love to hear how you have done it. If you’ve had a different experience with groups, I’d love for you to share that with me and other site visitors.
Together, we are making this recovery thing happen!