I want to make it clear that it is not my intention to bash 12-step programs; I love them. I’ve been an active member of one since the day I got clean. I’m grateful for every suggestion I’ve ever received, as those suggestions have shaped the beautiful life I have today.
I have been noticing lately, however, that having feelings or reacting as a human being might—is somehow “not allowed.” For example, I mentioned recently that I felt content with my life today, and was told, “Be careful you don’t get complacent.” Huh? Being happy is something to be wary of? I thought that was the point. Another day, I was easily irritated, ie. people were irking me at the DMV. The feedback I got? “You’re not practicing acceptance of others.”
It must be a failing on my part.
After six days in a row cooped up with a toddler who was exercising her willful streak, I needed a break. When I shared, it was suggested that I, “Be grateful she’s healthy.” As if somehow wishing I didn’t get hit in the face with a cardboard book all day means lack of gratitude.
Summer is a busy time of year, and my meeting attendance has gone down from four days a week to two. “Watch out for the lapse before the relapse.” You’re kidding, right? It stands to reason that after almost four years without a drink or drug, my meeting needs might change.
It’s a busy time at work for the hubby so his hours are long and he’s not around to help me? “Be grateful he has a job.” Thanks, but missing my partner is also not a lack of gratitude.
I have lost count of the times I have been on the phone with a young woman in early recovery listening to her sob and describe clear symptoms of PMS. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I’m tired, I’m crying about everything, and I snapped at my roommate for no reason.” When I ask, “Are you about to start your period?” I hear, “Well yes, but so-and-so at the meeting said I’m not working hard enough.”
So, women working 12-step programs are immune to PMS? Sign me up!
My personal favorite? “That wasn’t a very spiritual thing to say,” in response to a snarky or sarcastic remark. Since when does a snarky comment, unrelated to another person, mean my relationship with my Higher Power is in question?
I’m snarky sometimes. I assure you, I’m not going to burn for it.
Before I was a member of a 12-step program, I was a human with failings and feelings. Working a program doesn’t mean I’m not human anymore. There needs to be room for feeling and behaving as humans in a 12-step program. Even the yucky stuff, like judging someone else, being crabby, or feeling tired. None of those things mean I am somehow not working a program the best way I know how.
It means recovery hasn’t turned me into a Stepford Wife.
Thank God for that.