It’s 1030 AM on Thursday in Puerto Vallarta. I’m in a women’s twelve step recovery meeting. Here, women gather to support each other in their recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, co-dependency, love addiction or overeating. Most things, basically.
It’s a simple room, painted white and filled with plastic outdoor chairs. Same as the ones in the meetings in Playa del Carmen but different to the ones in Perth. In Chiang Mai we sat outside in the park. In Beijing, we gathered in the 42nd storey of a high rise apartment building.
I don’t know anyone here and yet I am known. A feeling I never felt before I went into recovery yet have felt in every meeting I have been to on this journey. London. Bangkok. Bali. Sayulita. San Miguel de Allende.
The highlight reel of this whole journey is the one I haven’t shared about. Lost on the streets of Beijing looking for the meeting, frustrated yet willing myself not to give up. Finding the building and being led to the meeting room by a kind cleaning lady clutching a mop. Arriving five minutes before the end yet grateful for the comfort they bring.
It’s something which is difficult to describe. It’s about the alcohol but it’s not. I don’t want to drink but I need meetings like I need air.
Plus, I love the adventure of it.
One time I paid a taxi driver in Goa, India, forty bucks to drive me an hour and a half to the closest meeting which wasn’t on that day. I was devastated but knew it was all part of the journey. The willingness to go out of my way; to take action no matter how inconvenient.
We’ve driven past countless meeting rooms in rural Mexico which are emblazoned with signage that is decidedly un-anonymous. They provide me the comfort of just knowing they are there.
There have been so many amazing moments on this journey and almost all my favourites are connected to my recovery in some way.
Shaking hands with locals outside a meeting room in Mexico city while I tried to explain in terrible Spanish that I was one of them.
Volunteering at a recovery convention in Playa del Carmen and watching 13,000 Mexican people from across the country flood through the gates after traveling all night on buses to get there. Meeting a man from Cuernavaca with 45 years of sobriety.
Feeling connected to something so much greater by virtue of my mistakes and failings. Feeling loved because of them rather than in spite of them. Having instant friends all over the world.
Fleeting moments of unconditional acceptance. A place where success equals progress and where perfection is thrown out of the vocabulary. Words like ‘grateful’, ‘hopeful’ and ‘relieved’ are spoken regularly.
It’s not what you think it’s like. I’ve sat in meetings with priests, district attorneys and psychologists. They feel the same as the people on welfare or the factory worker or the stay at home Mum.
That’s the beautiful truth which keeps me coming back like a moth to a flame. It’s one of the only places I ever feel cozy, free to simply be. Nothing to explain or prove. Healed by stories.
As the women’s meeting continues, I sit and listen, then share when it’s my turn. When I finish I am filled with a knowing. It’s a voice which speaks to me in moments of clarity, of which I’ve had only a few.
“This is where I want to be.”
Not just this particular room in this particular country or even this particular type of meeting. Just here, in this space of being and sharing and connecting.
For someone like me to finally know where they want to be, it’s a sweet relief. I first came because I needed to and now I want to. I want to take it into other areas of my life because it’s not just addicts who need healing and connection. Everyone needs it.
We addicts have a frame of reference which involves buckets of suffering but we do not hold the monopoly on pain. If anything, we are the lucky ones. We received the gift of each other. It’s kind of ironic really.
I wish there was more true connection in the big wide world, but like Gandhi said, if you want it, be it, or something like that.
So, I’ll continue to put myself in the middle of it, telling the truth over a cup of tea (or the coffee I’m sipping on now) and allowing others to share theirs.
Because, in the end, “We’re all just walking each other home.” (Thank you, Ram Dass).