One year ago I walked into an Al-anon meeting.
In the previous month, I'd been to all sorts of 12 step meetings, looking for my home. The pamphlets didn't describe me, or the people gaped at me - hungry eyes - fresh meat.
The last night of the year I ended up at an AA meeting, because an angel came and found me. I was there, wandering around the church annex looking for another meeting, but apparently I was the only one, and the loneliness of being stood up by other anonymous addicts in my tribe was intolerable.
A man popped out of the AA meeting down the hall, and asked if that's what I had been looking for. And when I said no, and he saw my face, he invited me in, they welcomed me home.
Hannah calls me an “honorary alcoholic,” not for this reason, but because the nature of my disease has the same ancestry. My delicate constitution has prevented me from ever truly overindulging in alcohol, but my spirit has always been insatiably thirsty in the same way.
(maybe yours has, too)?
It had started as a Distraction from the incredible pain of infertility, and it followed me to the Bahamas, to the ashram, where I was supposed to Get Clear and Get Healed, or at least insulate myself from inflicting my poisonous thoughts and feelings into the healthy masses.
He shared Things with me that I've protected you from, that I'll continue to protect you from, and allow the spirit of the Thing to find you from between my words, if you're so inclined.
I sat there, night after night, in dark meditation, surrounded by 300 strangers and the sweet song of the Caribbean, convinced I had been infected.
(And I had been, just not with a disease for which there is a pill.)
My self-worth eroded by infertility, my resilience depleted, I had become the perfect host.
Infected by addiction.
The years that followed were the worst of my life, because I was simultaneously consumed by how much I despised myself and how much his behavior was likely to kill me.
Am I hoping to live, or die?
All addiction breeds rage, which is fed by the shame, which continues to multiply with each uncontrollable grasping for The Thing that will never fill the hole.
It starts with, I Believe There Is A Hole In Me, and that there will be a Thing that will fill it. But it won't, not because it can't, but because the hole is a lie. It is a ghost – an apparition.
And it's hungry.
My addiction became him, his behavior, his pathological inability to find or speak The Truth, and I was lost. Consumed by tracking, by living a double-life, a deranged fulfillment of my Sherlock-ian roots, my anthropological leanings, my stubbornness.
The strong female leads of my childhood, gone seriously wrong.
He left. I left. There were lines in the sand.
The people of Al-anon sat with me in the dark moments, hearing the horror stories bleached of unsavory details, and nodded. Saying things about hope, and courage, and focusing inwards. We have been lost, too, their eyes said. Some of us lose ourselves on the daily. And yet we believe you can find you again, as we have also found ourselves on this path.
This past year has been about Me – this next year will be about Me. It started with realizing that there was never a hole, that this was simply the topography of my garden. Then a fence, then weeding, and now intentional planning. Fence maintenance. Ongoing weeding. Nurturing What Comes Next.
Alice so plainly spoke it, the sentiment of my Sisters in Al-anon, “When you can't look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark.”
Thank you, my unknown darlings, who heard my desperation and didn't try once to fix it. You simply sat outside and watched me build my own fence. Clear my own wreckage.
Build my new life.