Compassion Over Convention: Acceptance in Nanaimo AA

I tried for many years to actively and effectively immerse myself in a 12-Step program. I made three solid attempts in three different cities, spanning two different countries, and too many years, but it never seemed to click with me. Or, rather, I was unable to click with it.

Perhaps it was a lack of readiness, having not met my ultimate bottom yet, or maybe it was the unwillingness to become teachable, flexible, or both. But whatever the cause, my desperate need to fit into one specific box rendered my efforts fruitless for so long, as I felt my Monster bridged the divides between AA, NA, and CA equally.

Alcohol was always present in my life, and provided the fuel for a fire that blazed for nearly a decade, just about leaving me in cinders by 27. However, as I’ve come to hear many AA members in Nanaimo utter, “drugs are a part of my story” as well. A big part of my story. In fact, they were the sole antagonist in many chapters, even though booze somberly narrates the sad tale throughout.

In Toronto, I was elbowed once after mentioning a specific substance in my very first AA share. “Outside issues,” she whispered. “Excuse me?” I asked. “We don’t talk about drugs here, we call them outside issues,” she clarified. It was the first time I’d ever dared to choke out words at a meeting, and I’d already done something wrong. I never spoke again at a Toronto AA meeting.

I wished desperately for an EA meeting, an Everything Anonymous group that met and shared freely and openly, in a general way, about the act of substance use, not placing limitations on the substances themselves. Disheartened, I learned no meeting like that existed in the typical 12-Step format, no matter which city I ultimately relapsed in.

Finally, I began coming to meetings in Nanaimo, and suddenly I felt at home. Perhaps it’s the “island way” or just the simple fact that we have one of the strongest, most loving, and inclusive recovery communities I have ever encountered. No matter the reason, the fluidity of our meetings have allowed me to carve out a space for myself and finally begin to heal. For just over two years, I have been able to share honestly about my struggle, in all of its forms, without fearing judgment, or the elbow of a stranger. I recognize Nanaimo as being an Anonymous melting pot, where we focus more on the present than we do the specifics of our pasts; where we let our disease – the disease of addiction, whether it be to alcohol or something else – unite us, rather than push us apart into corners.

We are a progressive group, concerned less with convention, and more with compassion. What a gift! Being here has allowed me to live one day at a time in sobriety, without being charged with picking my poison based on the day of the week, or the chair that I’m in. I remain mindful, of course, keeping details to a minimum while voicing a message, but here I have the freedom to help ANYONE who wants to stop use of ANYTHING, and, like me, couldn’t do it alone.

Carli