Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hi, My Name Is A.K., And...

...I'm just here for observation purposes. I'm a graduate student. I don't have a drinking problem.

You can't say that at an AA meeting, you know? Who am I to trivialize someone's struggle just because I've chosen to join this group for one night as an assignment?
Well, that's exactly what my friend Kristin and I did. As one of our assignments in our Group Therapy class, we are required to attend one session of an open group (Weight Watchers, AA, NA, Al-Anon, etc.) and write about our experience. I've been anxious about this assignment since the first night of class in January. Our professor asked only that we be honest but respectful. To me, that meant choosing a meeting closeby, stating perhaps only my name and that I'm a visitor (after all, I'm not going to lie and say that I'm an alcoholic, which would be antithetical to the whole purpose of the support group), and then listening politely for the rest of the meeting.
I obviously didn't want to announce that I'm a student and that I'm not like the rest of those people; for an open discussion group, I can't imagine anything more hurtful than feeling like I was sharing my pain with a group of relative strangers, only to be leveled by two 20-somethings breezing through for one night, for a "project," probably on their way to a bar afterward.

It was uncomfortable as hell, I'll tell you that much. The meeting took place at a church close to Kristin's townhouse and my apartment. We carpooled because we were nervous enough without having to arrive sans escort. Another classmate joined us, and she was just as nervous, even though she'd attended a meeting before for another class. I must admit, all of my preconceived notions about AA meetings when right out the window as the members shared their experiences with faith, coming to know God, connecting with one another through likenesses, triggers to engage in harmful behaviors, and participating in a process that isn't always comfortable or "warm and fuzzy." I loathe that expression, but it gets my point across. I always derive a lot of benefit from interacting with people who aren't part of my homogenous daily routine. As oxymoronic as it may sound, I enjoy stepping outside of my comfort zone and testing the waters within myself.

The only time I felt a bit out of place--well, other than the fact that I was at an AA meeting--was when the gentleman passing out sobriety chips specifically addressed the three of us: "You know, I like to tell nursing students that we're not contagious!" Was it that obvious that we were students? Apparently, it was, but that didn't make the members any less welcoming toward us or open in sharing their stories. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at AA, though I literally pray that there is never a need for me to return!

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

No comments: