Groups exist: running clubs and bird watching clubs, weight watcher groups and book groups. People join because of a common interest or to encourage each other in a common pursuit. But did you know that some people willingly join groups they do not want to belong to?! My husband and I belong to one. We joined a support group for those who have a family member suffering from the disease of addiction. We joined because “life had become unmanageable” and changing the behavior of our child was not possible. Instead we learned that we, like the others, are powerless. The common thread that binds us is pain.
Most Sundays a new face appears. We sit in a circle and each member gives an update on their addict; they are “doing well or back at rehab, homeless or paying rent.” We also share personally; we are “questioning our decisions, learning to not overreact, tired but hopeful.”
Why do we do this? There are therapists, on-line forums and self help books. There is also denial. Why meet to discuss the difficult?
I am not sure. But people tend to join when they are in crisis. The first step in the door is often a desperate one. They come for advice on what to do about a “missing family member high on alcohol and cocaine” or a loved ones positive tox screen for “benzos, fentanyl, crack and amphetamines.” We listen. We nod. There is a lot of nodding. There are no solutions. Instead we offer gentle suggestions or a new way of looking at the problem. It is strangely comforting to realize our ugly experience may be helpful to another – at a minimum by making them feel less alienated. A magical sort of alchemy happens when both hurt parties end up feeling a bit better.
When it is my turn I get to speak aloud the fears that have been echoing endlessly in my head all week. I liken this to opening up my closet door and calling out the ghost. Group Ghost Buster! My three-day headache dissolved after I shared one week. Why did the ibuprofen not work? I do not know.
You know what else helps? Getting lost in looking at my fellow group members.* I like looking at their shoes, their hands, their eyes, their hat choices. One wore pajamas two weeks ago! Some bring dogs. Some bring knitting. Others sit confidently. Some curl up a bit. I find it comforting to get lost in the visuals of our collectivity. Who knew this would be our reality? It’s akin to being dropped onto a strange new planet and having to assess your new mates. My husband’s verdict is that “he has never been in a room with more kindness and empathy.” I think he may be right. One member recently checked in with me via email. He signed off “you are loved.” (I cried then, and I am crying now.)
Ultimately, being in a group like this makes small talk impossible. Instead you must reach down to a deeper level to share the stuff that keeps us all afloat. I guess I should have nicknamed us Group Soul Buster. I encourage you to join one if you are in need.
*We now meet virtually. But I look forward to our in-person gatherings: for the shoes…and the hugs.
8 thoughts on “Group Ghost Buster”
Your gift is incredible. The language you choose to share your innermost feelings, opinions, fears, well it’s simply too real NOT to comment. Thank you for…all…of…this.
Thank you Susie for all of YOUR gifts (advocacy, action, art!)
You ARE loved. And I imagine it’s also a help to be able to lay down your armor, and be seen and understood in this specific segment of your life experience.
Thank you so much for sharing. I always hear something that resonates.
Thank you Tracy. I miss you and your boys… your sensitive boys who never, ever wore armor! (Heart full just like their momma)
Thank you again for sharing ! While admittingly I am not a “joiner” ( or a good speller lol). I will say that when I meet a person such as yourself who I know has gone thru and understands the pain and confusion of circumstance that life has thrown at us… the calmness that comes over me when even just talking for a few minutes …well, it’s beyond words. We’ve walked the mile in same shoes, and walk it every day still. It helps to know we’re not alone.Thank you!
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So true Mandy. I feel the same about you. it’s like we are a “secret” team.
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You are LOVED
Thank you for sharing
I keep you in my prayers always
I also joined a different group where I sit every single night looking at shoes and wondering sometimes what planet is this and how the hell did I arrive here
I hope when you leave your group you feel the warmth all around you and it carries you through each day
Lisa you are the sort of person who loves everyone: we need more of that! (And in case you didn’t know you are the person who sent me that card in my blog entry “The Art of Telling Stories”). xo.