Have you ever run into your own therapist at a 12 step meeting?

It is a bit forward of me to start out with tossing this question out, “Have you ever run into your own therapist at a 12 step meeting? I say it’s forward of me because I’ve been absent from here for months upon months! This I recognize, and it’s been on my mind that my absence has grown longer and longer with each day. How to explain it? A good part of it is the fact that I’m well aware that my anonymity is not what it used to be, especially once I was Freshly Pressed. It’s been oh so hard to feel free to write on here. Also, recent struggles led me to isolate big time, and that isolation stretched to this blog as well.

But back to the original question, has anyone ever run into their own therapist at a 12 step meeting? I ask because this just happened to me this very morning with the therapist I wrote about here. What made it awkward is the fact that I’m still trying to sort out my feelings as to whether or not I want to continue working with her. She has many moments of brilliance and insight, but then I get annoyed when she says she will make a certain phone call, and then does not or it takes her two plus weeks to do it. We spoke about the phone call thing, and she apologized for it, but she said that she usually follows through, and I did not call her on it. She thought I was unhappy about that particular time we were discussing when she failed to make a particular phone call she had committed to make. I could have used my words and said, “No, you’ve done this before … ” Alas, I did not, and that is my issue to own.

I say all this to say that I think all of this colored my own pained reaction when I ran into her. She asked me if I was ok with it, and I said yes, which was not the complete truth. But what is one to do in the moment? After all, she’s a person too. She’s entitled to avail herself of 12 step meetings. Afterwards, I wanted to talk to her and assure her that I usually go to the 10:30 meeting, and that I would not return to the 9:00 a.m. meeting, that I was just there because I had a breakfast to attend, and decided to take in an earlier meeting. But it was not to be, as soon as the meeting was over she quickly scampered to someone and started what looked like a serious conversation, so I just left.

I would love to hear others experience with this kind of situation.

it’s not an option

No question, yesterday’s post was tough.

I woke up today with that familiar stuck-to-the-bed feeling, but this time with darkness and a despair that gripped me enough that it evoked the sensation of heightened loneliness. In the midst of that feeling, I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across the articles from the Fix, and this one in particular about relapse with alcohol caught my eye. Essentially, the author conveyed that even with working the 12 steps, sponsoring people, doing service work, and going to meetings the author still relapsed with some regularity. He realized that his sobriety did not stick when alcohol was still an option. When he finally took alcohol off the table for good as an option his sobriety found the stability that was previously elusive for him.

After I read that article I realized that my sexual assault went a long way in taking alcohol off the table permanently. Without the assault I probably would have tinkered with moderation and/or going in and out of “the rooms” as AA is often called. I could envision the alternate universe scenario with me going in and out of sobriety while my life bobbed along at a slow but steady descent into eventual disaster from alcohol dependence.

Few things would have been as bad or worse as what happened. My excess drinking put me in vulnerable situations, and the bill came due on that day. Aside from the physical and emotional pain from the experience, my job was adversely affected by what happened. Yes, my employer handled it properly, but it was obvious that I was damaged goods for a fair amount of time after the assault in that it was very clear I was suffering in trying to find my footing in the recovery process. Out of all the consequences suffered, the fact that I could sense my reputation changing at work was the hardest one to take. I always prided myself in doing a good job, and having a fine reputation. I loved my job, loved doing it well, and I got satisfaction from being seen as a credible professional.

That’s how I got into sobriety. I wanted to be a credible again, and I was willing to go to any lengths to keep my job. To be clear, no one ever threatened taking my job away. They knew they had to tread carefully there, especially with the whole sexual assault situation. But I knew I was under the microscope, and I could tell I was being sized up frequently to assess as to whether I was fit for duty. If I had not stopped drinking when I did it would have been a long bumpy road into deterioration.

This is why I can be a complete freak about my sobriety. I hold on to it like a life preserver, and woe to you if you try to interfere with it because losing it is not an option.

AA how I loathe you

A text message exchange between me and my friend Ken …

Me: I just left the AA alkathon, too many guys in the meeting reminding me of my father. Oy. So triggered. There’s an over abundance of older men telling drinking “war tales.” I hate that.

Ken: Sucks when meetings go that way.

Me: Yeah, makes me pine for the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meetings with all their meeting rules. Alas, I get triggered there for different reasons. I have the air conditioning jacked up in the car to try to shake myself out of it. Strangely funny …

Ken: Funny cause it’s 20 degrees out 🙂

Me: Yeah …

You know how I have a blog … Well, I found out the day before yesterday that another fellow blogger I used to correspond with took her own life. I didn’t mention it at dinner, didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to sully the evening. She actually lived less than 3 hours from me, but I was too scared to try to meet her. Not because of her, just because I am generally afraid of people.

We used to trade stories about the different psych hospitals for PTSD and DID. We had the same ideas and theories about how these places are run.

Then I just got out of the habit of emailing her, and now she’s gone. And I feel like somewhat of a disappointment. Like maybe if I hadn’t been so scared of the world I would have visited her …

Bizarre to pull up her last email to me with the knowledge that the person that wrote it is now gone.

Ken: You have no power over other people. She had her own stuff you could not control or change.

Me: The wise brain part of me knows that, and the other part of my brain feels incredible disappointment in myself. Then on days like today I feel ridiculous with all the effort I expend.

Ken: Are you making it into a meeting? If not the alkathon, is there another?

Me: I was on my way to one that starts in a few minutes. But I don’t know …

Ken: I think it would be a good idea to try.


And with that I arrive with trepidation to a meeting at the infamous “A-frame” as people like to call it, so named because of the architectural style of the church. A common question is, “Going to the A-frame for a meeting tonight?” The A-frame has meetings several times a week, sometimes several times a day, depending on the day.

I take a breath right outside the doors, and I can hear the twelve steps being read. I open the door, take notice of the familiar wood floors and strangely comfortable plastic folding chairs, then I take a seat near the side wall. There’s a fiftyish salt and pepper haired guy with an Old Navy hoodie chairing the meeting, and I close my eyes and take in the odd, but comfortable feeling from being present in that room. I’m consciously relaxing into the chair when I hear salt and pepper haired guy say (to the best of my memory), “This is a simple program, and I find that when you keep it simple it works. When people get into this therapeutic PTSD stuff, I don’t know … you know … I don’t know about that, just keep it simple.”

Well, shit, that got my attention. When salt and pepper haired dude finally noticed me with my hand up this is what I said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here, but with respect to the PTSD I want to say something about that. As someone who’s an alcoholic with PTSD I can say that the combination, for me, makes it difficult for me to be in these rooms as much as I would like to be. I wish that weren’t so, but it is. I wish that it was not the case that too often I get triggered by simply hearing about drinking or consequences from drinking. I am glad I did not know how almost unbearable my PTSD would get for me when I quit drinking. I want to be here, but sometimes I have to make the choice to leave when I’m getting triggered. Even so, I’m grateful that the program is here for me when I’m able to be here.”

As predicted there was the typical reaction to my share that one has to keep it simple, stick to the program, and that if you don’t veer from the program you’ll be fine. Such a belief is overly simplistic in that it conveys a presumption that the believer knows everything there is to know about what works for every possible person with this addiction. Let me take the opportunity to say that such a belief is beyond foolish, beyond embarrassing and devoid of taking in the bigger picture of the varied individuals that present as addicts.

And that is why too often I find myself driving past the damn A-frame when I’m not in the mood for the self-rightous words that I will inevitably hear over and over again in any meeting I find in that church in the shape of a summer camp.