Safe Spaces

As I grew to love my chair in the rooms of meetings, I often spent time wondering how this place that was so foreign could feel so safe.  Some days I sat next to people that looked like me. Somedays I took Snicker’s bars from the older men who appeared to have some experience that I lacked. Somedays I heard stories about adventures that were very different from mine. But, they all talked about turning my will over to the care of God.

There are some similarities to a church service. There is an opening and closing prayer. There is a time that the basket is passed to collect money. There is often talk of spiritual experiences that sound eerily familiar to those that I was trying to avoid. This place that was so unlike my church was in many ways so Church-like. All my life, I believed that church was somewhere you went. It didn’t matter that I sang a song that told me it was the people. I believed that we “went to” church. The rooms of recovery taught me that the Church meets me where I am.

On the back porch.
In the psych ward.
In detox.
In meetings.
Over coffee.
While sharing stories.
While crying.
While admitting our failures.
While reconciling our brokenness.

Honestly, it did not feel like any kind of church that I had ever known. I falsely believed that the Church was a safe place for me as a newly sober person. One of the hardest church moments in early sobriety was when I was attending worship and the pastor shared about the beauty of all things – which I believe – but the example was given during the sermon of sitting outside and enjoying a wonderful glass of wine with the ones you love. This seems like a simple enough example. And for most people in the service that day, it was.

They immediately related and recognized that imagery of beauty. But for me, the newly sober, stumbling in my faith listener, it hit me sideways and upside-down that day. Here’s why: I was completely ill prepared. I didn’t see it coming. I was in my happy Jesus place and I was minding my own business, and out of no where the desire to be one of the normal people that drank wine and saw beauty startled me out of my worshipping-Jesus dream. It was the craziest thing. Ever.

But in that moment, I became aware, again, that most people in my world don’t understand my disease. I’m grateful for this. And I’m also forced to a place of awareness because of it. It is my job, and not yours to know safe places. And that day, I naively thought that this service on a random Sunday night was a safe place.

But the truth is, there is no safe place in a world that is filled with the common conversation piece of my addiction. No one meant to hurt me that day. But in my delicate and fragile headspace, I didn’t have the capacity to see that. I was more convinced than ever that the only safe place for me was a room with the 12-steps on the wall. But guess what? That room has imperfect people just like the church and the PTA and families and even the clergy. The most important work for a newly sober person to do is the hard work of cleaning up my side of the street. The interior work of the steps was one of the greatest gifts of my life and helped me to find truth in the midst of a very scary world filled with humans.


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