Last night at my home group meeting, a woman who appeared nothing short of terrified shared her story as a newcomer in recovery. It terrified me to see someone with a year-and-a-half sobriety still feeling that raw pain and fear. Or maybe she was just terrified of public speaking, something else I can relate to.
A man sitting directly behind me shared that when meetings start to feel repetitious and tedious, newcomers keep him coming back. He said he remembered when that woman first melted in and out of rooms, looking like a scared bunny. I imagine everyone in the room related to feeling like a scared bunny in the beginning. No matter how cool I tried to play it, my shifty eyes and tendency to melt in and out of meetings without talking to anyone betrayed me. I still feel that way, come to think of it.
The man who was sitting behind me – who I never turned around to see what he looked like – said he loves seeing newcomers blossom, though that wasn’t quite the word he wanted and he never came up with one better. It sounds nice to blossom. A little feminine, perhaps, but I’ve noticed that one guy who came in several months after me, scared and desperate, keeps showing up looking more whole as each week passes. He’s grown a beard and smiles more and sits further in the room now, not so close to the door. I look forward to seeing him and other newcomers return each week. I still identify as one, but these people are special somehow.
The man sitting behind me – who I pictured as short and stout with reddish, uncombed hair – went on to share how he struggled with his purpose at meetings for awhile. The cliches rubbed his nerves and he felt stagnant and useless. Then he realized his purpose was to give comfort to the newcomer so that they might blossom and give hope and comfort to someone else who will blossom and give hope and comfort, and so on and so on.
I’ve heard this before, but something about the way this man behind me said it made me tear up. I imagined a continuous, strong chain of strangers with often very little in common choosing to sit in metal folding chairs and mostly listen for an hour. By doing this very simple act, they find a better way of life not only for themselves but anyone willing to do the same. I don’t think I’m explaining it well, but I felt it powerfully and thought in a calm, non-rabbity way “yes, I can do this.“