It’s happened several times now – I look up to see who is entering the meeting, and I recognize the face. Surprise. Sadness. Discomfort. Adjustment. Hope. Gratefulness. The feelings come in this order.
After the meeting ends, I’ve tried to gauge whether to approach or not. It is usually clear if the person is up for speaking or if exiting is a priority. I’ve always appreciated when someone is open for a hug, and understood entirely when they just want to get out the door. The truth of these Al-Anon rooms can be painful even with the cloak of anonymity. Either way, I am overwhelmed at the amount and range of people alcoholism continues to affect. The number of familiar faces speaks sadly to how we keep things secret, how we are ashamed, or at least uncertain, of bringing up the problem of alcoholism to those around us. We choose isolation when there are so many of us affected.
Today I was proud of myself for speaking with another member about a disturbing story she had told several weeks ago. I don’t know her outside of meetings, and she had told the story at the first meeting I’d seen her attend. It stuck in my mind and I really wanted to comment on it but I wasn’t sure it was my business. A good opportunity presented itself today before the meeting and I broached the topic very carefully and slowly, giving her time to cut me off if she wanted. She listened and seemed glad I said something. Whew. It worked out well this time. She hugged me at the end of the meeting and thanked me for talking to her.
There are so many of us in these rooms, and I know many haven’t found their way yet or forego Al-Anon for their own reasons. Before I attended meetings, I felt alone, singular, afraid, like I was in a tiny row boat on a huge ocean. I had no idea who I could talk to. I never need to wonder that in the meetings. Our stories share a lot of similarities, regardless of who the alcoholic is to us. When we share, we get rid of the negative and we take in the support and the positive. I am so thankful for the created space of sanity and for the tools to work toward serenity.
Each time a familiar face has come in the room, I find myself saying a little prayer that that person finds comfort in the our group and understands that his or her anonymity is not something I’d ever give up.
Ending with my favorite quote by some anonymous person (fitting, no?):
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.