Imagine you have had severe anxiety from a young age. You taught yourself not to make eye contact, to look at the ground while walking, used baggy clothes and long hair to try to be invisible. You felt more comfortable in long sleeved hoodies where you could pull sleeves over your hands because it made you feel safe. Imagine feeling nauseous 24/7 and throwing up or dry heaving daily. This started at 9 years old.
You discover something that makes it all go away. Alcohol. The thing is alcohol didn’t work on you the way it did on everyone else. Alcohol is usually a depressant but the majority of the times you drink you’re hyper, impulsive, talk fast, promiscuous, and stay up all night. You don’t think it’s odd because you don’t know anything else. But when the hardcore alcoholics you hang out with comment on it you start to wonder.
Eventually you aren’t the happy, hyper, drunk anymore. Events and circumstances change. Depression starts to creep in while you’re drinking. So does jealousy and anger. This leads to more negative events that change you dramatically.
When things get to a point where you’re given an ultimatum, a 12 Step Program or being homeless, you agree to the 12 Step Program. You shouldn’t have.
You had been to a few Psychiatrists who diagnosed you with Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder and put you on medication that wasn’t exactly working.
You’re forced to meet a person you don’t know and agree to make her your Sponsor. She goes to meetings 3 times a day. The first meeting you have to go to is a large open meeting where everyone knew each other. There were about 70 people and believe me people noticed when I walked in.
When a thrust a person with Social Anxiety into a group setting where they don’t know anyone, they’re there for something they feel ashamed of, and they also have PTSD but haven’t been diagnosed yet, it isn’t a great experience.
When you then force that person to get up and speak in front of everyone it causes harm. I hated it, I never wanted to go back, I disliked the people, I disliked the several comments made when a few men noticed the scars on my wrists, I hated that they monitored what you could and could not say at an open meeting, I hated that my sponsor wanted me to go to 3 meetings a day while working 50 hours a week and taking care of my Mom who had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. My sponsor’s response was “You found time to drink didn’t you?”
I didn’t drink like other people. I never drank during the day. I always drank from 4-5 pm to around 1 am on work night and later if I had the next day off. I never drank alone. I know this doesn’t matter, I’m still an alcoholic. But everyone is different in their patterns and behaviors.
The worse part were the comments about not really being “sober” if you’re on medication. I knew this was directed at me. Every meeting someone brought it up. How antidepressants were a crutch and a substitute for alcohol. I think I have permanent scars on the inside of my mouth from biting my cheeks and tongue.
I never felt like I could be honest at meetings. The stress was overwhelming. When my sponsor had us go to a meeting for a group of male convicts to speak that was it. I lost it. I told her I couldn’t do it. She told me I better get on my knees and pray because I bound to fail and go to Hell. When it comes to religion and anyone telling me I’m going to Hell or to pray it’s like waiving a red flag in front of a bull.
Things didn’t end well. I refused to put myself in a room where I might run into someone I used to drink with, someone who hurt me physically and mentally. I was right not to because there were 2 men in there that I did know. If they had seen me or I them I would’ve had a breakdown or worse.
People with mental illness and addiction have to be treated in a different way.
I don’t believe a person with mental illness who is self medicating with drugs/alcohol should be thrown into a regular 12 step meeting. It isn’t going to work. We need more than that.
I’m more sensitive to the concept of shame. Shame actually had a lot to do with my failing to stay sober. When I was able to take shame out of the equation I was able to achieve sobriety. Too much importance is put on “How many days do you have?” or “What is your sober date?” First of all I have damage to my brain and don’t remember my sober date or how many days.
Second, keeping track like that is setting yourself up for failure. Life isn’t about numbers unless you’re an accountant. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s what you’re intent was/is when you made them that matters.