Today is monumental, and one I know I will look back on in years to come as being a pivotal moment. I have been fortunate to find a 12 step meeting that occurs daily, in a convenient location, with a group of people who feel comfortable to me. I have been around “the rooms” enough to know that this a very rare combination.
I found this group on day 3 of my now 58 days, so I have been attending this particular meeting at least 5 times a week for the past 8 weeks. And while I am always polite, and speak when I am spoken to, and listen very attentively, and even occasionally share, I have not engaged in a way that makes me feel a part of the group. I knew more was needed to be done on my part for this to happen, but I felt like I would be fake to pretend like I am feeling happy-go-lucky, and I certainly don’t want to fill everybody’s life with the chaos that is in my own head, so my m.o. has been to be open to new relationships, but not to force anything before its time.
And certainly, I have made some relationships. I have come across people I knew outside the rooms, and those people have connected me with other quality people. From daily attendance I have gotten to know, superficially at least, other people who attend the same meetings daily. It is absolutely never a chore to come to a meeting, or to chat with people in the rooms. And what I hear on a daily basis is opening up new worlds for me. But still, I know in my heart that even more is needed for me to really feel like I am part of this community.
And today, on Day 59, it happened. I got to the meeting early feeling very proud of a particularly strenuous workout, and sat down in what I consider prime real estate in the meeting room (comfortable chair, with a table to my left to put my water bottle). From across the room, a gentleman whom I see regularly, but who I did not realize knew me, yelled, “Yo! Josie Wales!” I look over and laugh, and let him know I have no idea what that means. Apparently it is a character in a very famous Clint Eastwood movie? Go figure. The point is, I have been given a nickname, and in the meeting that followed, during the break, and after the break, the nickname was cemented… I even addressed myself that way when I shared.
This may sound like a very minor incident. But it is monumental to me for two reasons. One, I have been around these rooms long enough to know that the people who seem the most successful in the program, who seem to be most respected and loved, have nicknames. Most people know that 12 step programs are anonymous, and as such use first names only. So very often people are distinguished by descriptive words with their first names, like Big Mike, or Good Doug, or John the Greek, and it seems to make people feel that much more connected. Of course, a nickname is not a requirement for success, but for me it deepens the feeling that I have finally found my niche in the recovery community.
Secondly, it is almost comical that I, of all people, look forward to having a nickname. I would guess to say there aren’t many people in the world who have had as many nicknames as I have had in my life. This post is already running a bit long, or I would take the time to list the various names I have responded to throughout my life. In fact, it had been suggested that perhaps my problems with addiction stemmed from an identity crisis, and that I should go back to my birth name (which almost no one, except my Mother, calls me), and I would be cured. But I have genuinely enjoyed each nickname I was given, it has given me a feeling of acceptance and belonging, and so to be given one in the program really feels like I am now a bona fide member. I have arrived!