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.