Not just for alcoholics anymore…

So a few weeks ago, I was sitting in my Treatment of Chemical Dependency class that I have to take as my nursing elective. That night we had a guest lecturer to talk to us about Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA). Considering that this class goes from 1730 to 2015 on a day that already starts off at 1000, I was not in the mood to be there and the fire alarm going off at the beginning of class did not help either. Part of me considered bailing since the sign in sheet had already passed me before we had to evacuate the building. But thankfully, I stayed.

So the lecturer is discussing aspects of AA and the 12-step program, and part of it is religious material. And at this point, I feel myself being closed off from the presenter and not terribly open to what he had to say because my ego was inflating itself thinking that I’d gotten my fill of the 12-step program info from my mental health clinical last year, and the religious stuff was nothing new I hadn’t already come across before in my years as a cradle Catholic

But then something hit. He discussed a story in which a young man that he was ministering to was going through one of the steps, and up to this point in that man’s life, everyone had just run away from him. But here in that moment, the presenter said that he just sat with that client and his sheer presence was the first time someone had not run away from him. And the description of what I can only imagine was a truly beautiful moment elicited this emotional reaction within me that flashed back to an instance in which a buddy of mine remained by my side despite seeing a side of me that I expected to drive him away. It’s still a personal subject, so I will opt to keep the details of the interaction to a minimum, but at the end of the day, when I opened up to him, instead of running away, that level of trust I placed in him seemed to bring us closer as friends.

The main reason why this moment stuck out was because I expected him to bail. It was a new friendship, no real ties outside of a working relationship had been made save for a few happy hours here and there. But when I realized that I had made a genuine, honest-to-goodness friend outside of the Catholic Center was one of the most life-changing moments I had ever experienced. In any case, I felt this feeling of peace and joy fill my entire being, which primed the pump, so to speak, for the rest of the lecture.

There were a string of minor epiphanies and whatnot, but the one that stuck out to me after the initial shock was the moment that the presenter discussed how at the beginning, when alcoholics enter the program, they tend to frame their views in what life has done to them. Then he extended a challenge: instead of demanding so much from life, open yourself up and listen for what life demands of you. And at this moment, everything clicked. As it’s been fairly clear between here and on Facebook, my relationship with my mother has been a bit turbulent over the years. Lots of hurting and being hurt have been done on both sides, and it’s a sort of vicious cycle that neither of us seem to be able to rise above. Even in my plans to reconcile and whatnot, every single idea had undertones of self-righteousness and some thinly-veiled blame, which clearly is no way to approach an apology.

However, in all of this obsession with being self-serving and, for lack of a better word, a dick, I missed a key point. My mother is a human being like I am. She has reactions to situations as I have reactions (albeit probably different ones). Most importantly, she is subject to hurt just as I am, if not more so because she’s had more years on this earth to be exposed to potentially hurtful people and/or situations. And instead of being absorbed in my own self, I need to realize that “it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life” (Thank you, Prayer of St. Francis). Situations like this are prime times to bust your ass even harder to let love flow through you. Yes, being hurt sucks, but the person that has lashed out did so because they are hurting as well. And this is your time to minister to that. No, you’re not always going to fix everything. But you do no good putting up your own defenses in fear. Take that step into the unknown and reach out. Even the hardest rock can be worn away by drops of water after enough time.

The important thing is to realize that you will be scared to take that first step, to put yourself out there, to potentially open yourself up to being lashed out to more. But if you have faith, if you trust in your God and in your heart, and you are genuinely reaching out, it will all be worth it in the end. Have no fear.

Time to take my own advice…