Note: This is part one of a two-part introduction to a new series on recovery meetings. There are recovery groups for just about everything. Additionally, the church has attempted to recreate 12-step groups that talk about only about Jesus — instead of a “Higher Power.” I am grateful for these Christian groups. They have saved hundreds and thousands of lives. (Contact information for many of these groups is available on the resource page found here.) The reality is, however, that Faith-based recovery groups (even groups that use the 12 steps) are not as successful as the 12-step / 12 tradition groups that are not connected to a faith community. I do not make that statement with any judgment. Rather, it is simply a statement of fact. Today, many voices are challenging the efficacy of 12-step groups. And indeed, the numbers of alcoholics and addicts who stay clean due to 12-step recovery could and should be higher. Bill Wilson, the author of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, was the first to admit that 12-step/12 tradition recovery is not for everyone. Some people are “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves” (page 58). I do not believe the problem with 12-step groups lies so much with the recovery movement as it does with the world making it increasingly hard to be truthful with oneself or the world.
There are many ways to deal with addiction. I believe that any treatment plan must include group recovery work. And I have biases about recovery as you have already seen. When the numbers show nonfaith-based recovery being more successful than faith-based groups, I take note.
I remember gong to my first recovery meeting. It was Sunday night and it was located in the upper room of a Lutheran Church next to a freeway in my hometown. To get into the meeting, people walked up a metal staircase on the outside of the church. Despite my best effort to be catlike, my footsteps sounded thunderous as my feet created a loud clanging on the steps. I was scared to death. It was hard to get the door open because it was so crowded. And as I feared, everyone turned to look at me as I walked in. I wish I’d arrived a little earlier than I did. Then I wouldn’t have interrupted anything.
Getting to your first meeting right on time or a minute before is a wise idea. If you are late, however, don’t let that stop you. After a couple of years, there were a few meetings I planned on arriving at up to half an hour late.
Most–but not all– of the people in the room were men of all ages and apparently all different socio-economic backgrounds. Clothing varied from flip-flops, shorts, and a faded tee-shirt, to a couple of shirts and ties, apparently from guys who hadn’t got out of their Sunday best yet. I don’t remember exactly who, but somebody made room for me to sit down without having to walk across the crowded circle that was two to three rows deep and spilled into the hallway on the other side from where I had entered. There were three women in the room. That surprised me.
Plastic-protected sheets of paper were passed out, and suddenly someone introduced himself: “Hi, I’m __________, and I’m a sexaholic.”
Everyone replied in unison, “Hi __________.”
“Welcome to this meeting… will someone please read, ‘The problem?'”
A guy across the room started to read, “Many of us felt inadequate, unworthy, alone, and afraid. Our insides never matched what we saw on the outsides of others….”
He was reading my story! I’m not sure how much more of it I heard that night. Other readings were read that explained how this particular fellowship operated and understood sex addiction. (Later on, I attended meetings of other sex addiction 12-step/12 tradition associations that have slightly different “liturgies,” while carrying a similar message of hope.)
When people finished the readings, the guy leading the meeting announced that it was time for introductions. He stated his name and referred to himself as a recovering addict. Others simply referred to themselves as “lust drunks,” or “sexaholics.” But by acknowledging their problem, they verbalized who they were without help. This introduction is an important piece of recovery. For many, it is the first time that they show any vulnerability at all. It is the first blow they strike against shame.
Part two of the introduction to the series will post on Friday.