Recently, someone on the circle spoke up: “I am a newcomer to these rooms. And I’m confused. I thought coming here would make me feel better, but I’m actually feeling worse. I’m angry. I can’t sleep. I cry … and moreso than before I stepped in this door. Is that normal?”
Here is a true story that addresses this absolutely normal response to early work in friends and family of addicts and alcoholics:
I have a dear friend I’ll call Tim. Tim spent 20 years as an officer in the United States Army — a number of them in the jungles of South America fighting the War on Drugs. During this time, Tim sustained injuries, particularly to his feet, shoulders and back. These injuries weren’t from being shot or attacked by the enemy … they were sustained just from living in his day-to-day circumstances — carrying a heavy backpack on rough terrain in boots that didn’t support his feet properly. This isn’t at all against Army conditions, just a description to show that slowly, over time, his living situation caused him deep pain. But as a soldier determined to complete his assignment successfully, he ignored that pain and just kept on with the battle.
Today, Tim is retired from the Army. Finally, he is admitting to doctors that his body hurts. Their xrays and exams showed that Tim, in the long run, had compounded his own injuries by learning to compensate in order to avoid the pain – especially in his shoulders. If normal motion hurt, he learned to move in a different way, which built up deposits and distorted the use of his muscles. The doctors performed corrective surgery, which they said was successful. But the initial weeks – even months – of physical therapy proved to be more painful than the hurt Tim had grown used to.
The medical experts and those who had been through this assured Tim that, by allowing that pain and slowly…gently…doing his exercises every day, he would get through that pain and be healed and fully functional again. Patience.
It’s the same for those of us whose lives have been changed and whose hearts have been hurt by living with an addict. We learned to adjust ourselves to work around the condition. We manipulated our own lives to avoid the deepest pain. We learned to ignore the signs of harm. So when we first walk into those rooms of Naranon or Alanon for healing, at first we might feel more hurt than we did before we opened that door. But in the long run, we’ll experience a deep and lasting healing.
Trust those who have gone before you. Allow the truths of the program to slowly replace the pain and the misunderstandings you might have embraced in the downward spiral. You too can find and receive Serenity if you get the heart of the matter.