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Finally belong

For many years I battled the overwhelming tides of active addiction. As a lesbian, I felt that everyone hated me and that I would never get what is so easy for other people. I was convinced that my sexual orientation was the central problem in my life. I became more angry and hostile towards people and institutions every day. Alienation, legal troubles, shame, guilt, loneliness, humiliation, and despair pulled me into such a mad cycle that I saw suicide as my only way out. I was then sent from the hospital emergency room to a treatment facility.

I was introduced to Narcotics Anonymous through NA members holding meetings at the facility. My only contribution to these meetings was the resentment, anger, pain, and hopelessness that erupted every time I shared. The people who held the meeting kept telling me that it would get better. Despite my constant struggles, her compassion and care left their mark on me.

Over time, I listened more closely to what other people in the meeting were sharing. I also found the preamble interesting, although I felt like I was different from everyone else. I began to look forward to the meetings as they gave me temporary relief from my pain, confusion and anxiety. One day I found I was staying clean. For me it felt like a shipwrecked person discovering a lifebuoy. That was my »conscious decision« for the program. I realized that the only way I could escape the cycle of destruction I had left behind was to replace it with recovery. The words "I'm addicted" took on new meaning for me.

The longer I stayed clean, the more freedom I got from therapists. I attended off-site meetings, spent time with addicts who were willing to pick me up, and attended various NA events. For the first time in my life, I was participating in life and having fun without having to use drugs. My life had gotten infinitely better in a short amount of time. Still, I didn't really feel like I belonged. Other addicts told me about their homosexuality, but I got the impression that they didn't bring it up in the meeting because they were ashamed. I would have liked to go to a Narcotics Anonymous gay and lesbian meeting because I felt that there would be a real appreciation of my unique lifestyle and my feelings of alienation. Eventually, the facility allowed me to hold such a “common needs meeting”[1] to visit. I couldn't wait to explain to the group how strange I found the term for these meetings. My needs were not “ordinary”[2]. I was a lesbian trying to use a program written by straight people.

After my first gay and lesbian meeting, I was disappointed; no one had mentioned the obvious fact that homosexuality is a departure from the norm. Contrary to my expectations, the meeting was not at all different from other meetings I had attended before. I went back there every week hoping it would be different next time, but the addicts talked about the same things I heard at the other meetings. It took me a while to understand that I was expected to get a sponsor, work the steps, and attend the meetings like everyone else. When I finally worked up the courage to share my outrage and disappointment with another gay recovering addict, I was laughed at. I've been told staying clean comes first; the solution to my problems would come later. I was amazed that this person simply could not see the injustice and hate that homosexuals face in everyday life. Getting clean was wonderful, but it never solves the real problems we face as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. I kept those thoughts to myself, however, in the hope that one day I would be able to help another homosexual understand that despite the alienation and hate that one encounters, one can stay clean.

Shortly after I made that decision, the addicts who held the meeting at the facility excitedly announced that a Narcotics Anonymous convention would be held in our state. Their enthusiasm and their willingness to support us at this convention convinced the head of the facility. So I made my first trip out of the city with a staff member. On the drive I learned that she was also a member of Narcotics Anonymous and believed that with the help of the community, any addict would be able to successfully run the program and stay clean. She was part of the convention committee and was probably also responsible for me being allowed to ride. We talked about staying clean the entire ride and something opened up inside me. I told her I was scared. Staying clean inside the facility was easier now, but I was afraid that I would soon be released and then have to stay clean on my own. And then I heard the most important thing a recovering addict had ever said to me: “You are never alone in the community of Narcotics Anonymous.” I had never wanted to believe in anything so badly.

I was blown away by how many people attended the convention. I wasn't sure how I felt. On the second day someone suggested that I do the convention service at the reception to greet and hug people. It was difficult for me, but the other addicts didn't notice my insecurity. Not knowing what else to do or where to hide, I stayed on this duty for four hours.

In the afternoon I attended a meeting for gays and lesbians. I was exhausted from greeting and hugging and unable to express my frustration and displeasure. My thoughts were clouded and I fought back tears. I absorbed every word shared in that meeting.

The message had also been shared at the other gay and lesbian meetings I had attended. But it was at that meeting that I first heard gay and lesbian addicts share their difficulties in connecting with others. I realized that it wasn't because of society's hatred that I felt alienated. I had to fight my own hate. No one had harmed me sexually as much as I had harmed myself by being stubborn and holed up in victimhood. I needed to find my inner peace by working the Twelve Steps with the help of a seasoned addict. Maybe I was just too tired to resist the message that afternoon. All I found was that I no longer had the energy to engage in intellectual debates with people who wanted to help me. I was finally beginning to find my way into the Narcotics Anonymous program.

The experience at that first convention changed the way I looked at my life. I longed for that strong sense of unity and community spirit. My willingness did somersaults. I was willing to find a sponsor, share my thoughts, work the steps, and listen to others.

After leaving the facility, I volunteered for all kinds of services: making coffee, greeting, stacking chairs, talking to new ones. I shared in meetings about my difficulties with stepwork rather than the things that bothered me about the world. It has never happened to me that I was denied a ministry in NA because of my sexual orientation. Women have given me the opportunity to sponsor them in Narcotics Anonymous, even though I am a lesbian, and when I was looking for a sponsor myself, homosexuality was not a selection criterion. My belief that my sexual orientation would always separate me from other people has gone. My home group sent me to area service conferences and I enjoyed serving at that level. After serving there for a while, I served on the convention committee for the very convention that sparked my attitude change.

I always wanted to fit in so badly that it hurt. Now that pain is gone because I can do something with others and be part of this community. By working the steps and applying the principles of the Narcotics Anonymous program, I have learned a great deal about myself. One of the gifts I've received is a deep desire to do something for others. This is the medicine I use to heal the old wounds I have inflicted on myself through anger, fear, resentment, and alienation. My gratitude for this way of life cannot be expressed by the words I write. It shows up every time I have the opportunity to help other people on their road to recovery. I thank the members of Narcotics Anonymous for providing a space, such as through gay and lesbian meetings, where I can face the feelings I carried around with me early in my recovery. Little did I know that the key to the solution was accepting myself. From this self-acceptance I gained the ability to accept and love others. It really is a "we program". I have found my greatest happiness and satisfaction in realizing that I have always been just like everyone else.

[1] Translator's Note: The American term "common needs meeting" is a more recent and less exclusive term for "special interest meetings". It designates meetings for members with specific common needs. In German-speaking countries, these meetings are usually referred to with the respective target group, for example gay and lesbian meetings.

[2] Translator's note: The American term is "common needs meeting". The word "common" can mean both "common" and "common". She alludes to this double meaning.

Story from: Basic Text 6th Edition, Copright Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Chatsworth, California