One of the most painful aspects of trauma and/or addiction is that becoming personally acquainted with it often shows us just how separate we are from everybody else. People who haven’t had to deal with addiction and/ or trauma seem to perceive and navigate life in ways that are different from ours—they seem to be more at ease, more confident about things working out; they seem to know their role in life. Someone who comes from the place of trauma sees this world in more complex and complicated terms—as a place that is wrought with obstacles and challenges. We work at our happiness a little harder because we come from the baseline of scarcity, and we’ve had experiences in life which proved to us that we’re not in control. It’s only with solid recovery, support systems, and good connections that we can regain the sense of control and where we can, again—or for the first time, for some of us—feel at home with the world.
Unfortunately, many recovery entities can be contribute to people feeling separated, as well. On joining some therapy groups or Alcoholics Anonymous, we soon learn that there’s a unique language and specific rules that only those who are in-the-know—know. The first few AA meetings I’ve attended might’ve as well been in Russian, that’s how mysterious everything sounded. Thanks to my determination and desperation to get sober, I didn’t leave, but it was frustrating to be in a place that was supposed to be helpful to me, and still feel excluded. I understood, however, that it would take some time for me to speak that language and that I just had to make peace with being confused for a while.
I wish things were different. I wish that recovery groups took time to take care of newcomers in a sensitive and empathetic way. The attitude of “shut-up-and-learn” is still so prevalent in some recovery circles, often in 12-step meetings. A mentally fragile, physically detoxing person who’s hit rock bottom attending her first meeting, will often feel even more mentally vulnerable and even more isolated when bombarded with the unexplainable information. The language and the inside jokes ensure of that. The recovery instructions (“find a sponsor!” “read the Big Book!”) seem so mysterious that it’s no surprise that so many of us feel or have felt like we were in the wrong place, or worse like we weren’t welcome.
I wish I had someone back then take their time and explain to me that all those new phrases I was hearing and all the instruction I was given was to aid my recovery. Instead, it just felt as if those things existed so that the new members could learn them fast enough to fit into the program. The recovery seemed dependent on one’s understanding of the program instead of the program trying to understand you. A sensitive, educated professional or a mentor can guide you based on their comprehension of your individual needs, with many groups and programs, that empathetic approach tends to get lost, and the recovery slang creates another barrier. I wish our goals were to eliminate the obstacles, such as non-inclusive language, and make healing accessible to all—the old-timers and new people alike.
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