I'm skeptical of Alcoholics Anonymous, and of 12-step programs in general. I've read the research that it's not as effective as some people make it out to be (which is a kind way of saying that it's bad science.)
Mindful of this, I still went, on the urging of my husband and therapist. I was having trouble being Sober Mommy, and I want to recover. I don't want to be a Drunk Mommy, and I want to recover and be done and heal and everything before my daughter remembers me as a Drunk Mommy, a C-PTSD Mommy, a Depressed Mommy.
But she will probably forever know that I'm a Recovery Mommy. I fear it will take a lifetime to overcome childhood trauma, as I fight to be the best mother I can possibly be for my daughter, trying to stop family patterns from repeating.
When I arrived, there were a couple of older women milling about and chatting as we waited for the conference room to clear out from a different meeting. It's famously hard for me to cry, but my eyes welled up.
How did I even get here? My god, I have to go to AA. What the hell happened? How have I failed? I'm such a drain on my family and my support network and an absolute and utter failure as a person if I have to go to AA.
Also, what if I'm the only young person in the room?
I wish I'd known to ask for help in the first few days and weeks after my daughter was born. I wish I knew that the anxiety that I felt was not normal. I wish I'd the courage to ask for help instead of toughing it out and self-medicating. That would have stopped it from even happening in the first place.
Then I wouldn't even be here. I cried "I don't want to be here" tears.
The meeting before us cleared out, and I sat down, still crying. I cried when they asked, "Is this anyone's very first ever AA meeting?" and I raised my hand and the room cheered and welcomed me. A lady next to me gave me all her Kleenex that she had in her purse--I sobbed through so much tissue that Kleenex really should sponsor all the AA meetings.
My God, I thought, I can't stop crying it's so embarrassing and I don't want people in the room to think that I'm weak and a crier.
It turned out that I was, in fact, not the youngest person in the room. Nor was I the only person who cried. I was not the only Drunk Mommy. I was not the only one who struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression.
They passed around my 24-hour token, rubbing them, holding them, filling it with hope.
Stories, one by one, rose into the air, filling the space between us. One by one, the words, woven together, showed the similarities of each of our experiences, of utter sadness and of hope.
Being the new person there, many of them spoke as if they were addressing me. They enveloped me with love, and gave me a newcomer's packet of material and phone numbers and many women repeated, "I hope you come back."
Now, I've looked at the 12 steps. I still have my issues with the ideas in them. They just don't seem to be really backed by science.
But what really will help is the love of all the women in the room, the shared understanding and experiences, the shared successes of so many of us and those before us.
I choose hope.
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