A Familiar Face in an Anonymous Room

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.


5 thoughts on “A Familiar Face in an Anonymous Room

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve only just started going – four times so far – and the third time I saw a familiar face. Not somebody I know very well, but a kind-of friend. I was worried about even looking her in the eye. At the end, I felt incredible relief when she came bounding over and gave me a hug and a hello.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad it went well! Be prepared for the instance where you know someone who doesn’t want to be seen there. It’s a stew of awkwardness, but you focus on what you need to fuel your recovery. No sense in focusing on the awkwardness, I guess. Easier said than done.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. P.S. I’m sorry, forgot to add that I’m really glad you found Al-Anon. It’s such a great support group. There are still times I feel really alone in this whole experience, but I go to a meeting, and the shared experiences are so comforting. The people there are inspirational. It does work. Go to as many as you need. I wish I could attend more because I need them, but I’m lucky if I get to two meetings a week.


      1. Thanks. I’m glad to have found it. I’m so frustrated that I just didn’t go for 13 years after my brother, who found AA, told me about it. He’s been very supportive, but my wife not so much, yet. She can’t understand why all this pain and strong negative feeling has suddenly afflicted me after such a long time “being fine”.

        Nor can I.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 13 years ago you weren’t ready to go. And now you are. I know for some people, certain experiences and emotions get tucked (pushed?) away, only to erupt years later. I don’t think it’s uncommon, and sometimes it’s a waste of good time to try to figure out all the “whys”. It’s really good you’re addressing the negativity and the pain. Sucks, but recovery doesn’t happen by stifling the issues, like many of us have done at some point, for varied amounts of time. Really glad you’re here!

        Liked by 1 person

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