By: Marilyn L. Davis

 

“Change is hard, that’s why we can’t do it alone and why it is vital that we have a foundation of hope.”― Russell Brand, Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions

 

You’ll Have to Find a Home Group and Build Your Foundation

I remember my counselor telling me that I’d need to find a home group when I got back to Gainesville after six weeks of treatment. When I asked her what that was, she laughed and said, “That’s where you’ll find your people.” 

Imagine my surprise when there were four home groups to choose from at my clubhouse at my first meeting back home. I’ve never been part of the in-group, whether high school or any other time for that matter. Not that it mattered then, nor does it now, but just how it was. 

After the meeting, the greeter came and asked me if I’d decided on a home group yet. I explained that this was my first meeting out of treatment, and I wasn’t sure what criteria I should use to choose one. He laughed and said that most people didn’t have any criteria. Then he explained that people usually chose a home group based on: 

  1. Availability of the meeting, whether I liked noon or 8 PM meetings.
  2. Did I have anything in common with the group members besides being an addict and an alcoholic?
  3. Was I was willing to do the service work that that group provided. 

I laughed and said it looked like I’d have to visit all of them to decide. 

Pick and Choose

Each of the four home groups chaired noon and 8 PM meetings, and since I was mandated to attend both meetings every day, I started recognizing which people were members of the four home groups. 

I just didn’t know what the service work entailed. Since I got out of treatment on November 8, 1988, Thanksgiving was just around the corner. Three of the groups were joining together to have a Gratitude and Thanksgiving dinner after the noon meeting. The fourth was doing Thanksgiving for the homeless shelter. 

Both seemed like something I could participate in, so I was still undecided about my home group. I made three casseroles of cauliflower and cheese for the clubhouse meeting and three for the homeless shelter. And yes, all of them were finished, with a few people telling me they didn’t even know they liked cauliflower. 

Finding Gratitude

While it was fun at the clubhouse, I felt more gratitude at the homeless shelter. We served about 40 people that first Thanksgiving. Over the years, I’ve cooked, washed dishes, cut cakes and pies, and still feel gratitude each time I attend. 

Next up was the Christmas holidays and the groups started dividing up service work for the marathon meetings. I quickly learned that many people went back out because they didn’t have support or, in some cases, any family to celebrate with, so they used.  

I knew I would do anything to help them not use and so volunteered for all three groups. No, I wasn’t vying for the volunteer of the year but felt a responsibility to help anyone trying to get or remain in recovery. 

I got assigned a four-hour window to set up for the Christmas meeting, starting at 6 AM. Then again from 2 PM until 6 PM. Coffee, literature, passing out the readings, finding a discussion leader, and cleaning up after each meeting. 

My family had our Christmas that night – strange, but as I told my parents, “We are blessed to have family, and time doesn’t matter.” Nor did it. 

I Find my Home

I finally settled on a home group, which had the usual mix of eclectic people. There were:

  • accountants 
  • bankers
  • city workers
  • construction workers
  • county workers
  • chronic relapsers
  • daughters
  • ex-dope dealers
  • ex-prostitutes
  • farmers
  • fathers
  • grandfathers
  • grandmothers
  • lawyers
  • mothers
  • newcomers
  • out-of-work landscapers
  • poor kids
  • retired military 
  • rich kids
  • sons
  • students
  • trash collectors

…and a few who didn’t disclose as they knew they could be arrested. 

How would we all get along since we were so diverse? That’s the beauty of 12 Step groups. We didn’t have to decide how to get along; the fellowship has Traditions for groups, and they helped us use our diversity of talents to make our home group function. 

12-Step Calls Help Bring Them Home

Back in 1988, we still went on 12-Step calls. Our clubhouse got at least one phone call per meeting from someone who had relapsed or needed help. 

Usually, the one closest to the phone answered. We never let the phone go unanswered. The day after Christmas, I didn’t answer the phone but was sitting close to it. When an old-timer answered it, he said, “Yes, I can come and get you, and I’ll be bringing a woman with me.”

After he hung up, he leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Do you have time for a 12-Step call?” My group members knew that the college gave me time for lunch and my meeting before I returned to work, so I still had time before I was due back. 

I reminded him that I only had a couple of months in recovery, and maybe someone with more time would be better. He asked me to come to the kitchen, where he said, ” Marilyn, I’ve got 25 years in recovery, she’s a woman, and she needs to see someone with time and someone who’s new. We’ll make a great team.” 

Get Them the Help They Need 

When we got to her house, there were beer cans everywhere. She was a mess. But she called asking for help, and even though I only had a few months, I knew that the hand of someone in the fellowship was what she needed. 

Back then, we could take people directly to detox. We explained where we were taking her, and that’s when she started balking. She slurred as she said she didn’t need detox, just a ride to a meeting. Looking at the old-timer for guidance, I asked her, “How much have you had to drink today? And how many days have you been drinking?” 

She hung her head and softly said, “I’ve had too much to drink today and for days before this one.” 

I told her that the admission of too much was admirable, but if she recognized it was too much, then maybe detox was the better option. 

I helped her back a bag, and we got her admitted to detox. Before we left, the old-timer told me to give her my number. I didn’t want to argue at the reception desk, so I did, but I still felt like I couldn’t be as helpful as someone with more time. 

Bring Them Back Home

Three days later, I got a call from this woman. She was getting out of detox and asked if I would take her to a meeting. I agreed and thought I’d hand her over to someone with more time when we got there. 

Riding to the meeting, she asked about my recovery and then told me that she’d had 12 years before she relapsed, and although she was embarrassed, she knew she needed to get back to meetings. Then she shocked me. 

She asked me to sponsor her. I explained that I only had a few months and others with more time could help her. She laughed and said, “Yes, there are others; in fact, I sponsored many of them and know I can depend on them. But you’ve made it through some of the worst trigger times for us with the holidays, you came on a 12-Step call, and you brought me to a meeting. Right now, I can’t relate to people with time, but I can relate to someone new.” 

While I emotionally understood her reasoning, I was not going to jeopardize either of our recoveries by sponsoring her. Still, we did develop a long-standing friendship and supported each other. And she stayed home in the program until she passed thirteen years later. 

How Can You Bring Someone Home?

Facebook has many groups for alcoholics and addicts that I think function in many ways, like an old-fashioned 12-Step call. Someone posts that they’ve relapsed and don’t know what to do. Almost immediately, an admin will ask for suggestions, or someone will post meeting times. 

Sometimes, they aren’t even in the same city, but they took the time to find a meeting where the person was. Or they’ll ask the individual to direct message them for their phone number. 

It’s incredible how much support, guidance, or suggestions you can find in recovery support groups on social media.  

When you see someone post that they are struggling, don’t worry about whether you have time or not, reach out, offer a prayer if you’re not sure of a suggestion, let them know what worked for you, and help them stay connected, and feel at home. 

 

Writing and recovery heal the heart

 

When you’re ready to share your recovery with someone who is still struggling, consider a guest post. 

 

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