I couldn’t sleep. I tried to meditate. I couldn’t get my thoughts to stop racing. Then I thought…one day nothing will matter. None of this. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
But I could not. I thought about how I could die at any moment and I would own nothing, I would have no bills…no debt…..I would be a spirit. Just dust in the wind.
Well, that still didn’t work. Just made me think about more stuff to worry about.
One of the things on my mind was a meeting I attended tonight. It was the Abused as Adults SNAP meeting. And it made me think about how we all share similar experiences. But that doesn’t mean that we are all alike.
We get into habits. Sometimes it seems silly to go over the meeting rules when people have heard them a million times. But then we forget that some people have not heard them. And it is for that reason, and because we are all at different stages of our recovery, that the rules are needed.
I had a glitch in sending out the invitation to the meeting this week and it went out to everyone so I got a lot of responses from people I will call “new people”. Everyone requesting access and me going through the usual “you do understand what this meeting is about…for those abused at the age of 18 and over?” Because many times people don’t get that right off the bat. And I get that. Because we are adults and we have all been abused. And SNAP for many years was about the children who had been abused who are now adults. Many people….SNAP members included, did not know that adult abuse was a thing. I didn’t know.
So there were new people at the meeting tonight. For some, it was their first meeting. Sometimes people come in late…that is okay. But if you do come in late, and someone is talking, please hold off on your questions until after they are done talking or enter a message on the side and someone will answer that way.
Usually there are two parts to a meeting, the first part allows everyone about ten minutes to tell their story and why they are there, or how their week went, how they are feeling today, or how something affected them. When that person is done speaking, the moderator usually thanks them and then there is silence until someone else chooses to speak. And so on until everyone who wants to speak has the chance to do so. But, group members are free to come and go as they’d like to take a break or a breather or to let their dogs out….as I do….and they are also free to remain quiet and to just listen. Because, again, we are all at different stages of recovery.
One thing that newer people tend to do….and I’ve done it myself….is ask for advice from anyone who will help them. We don’t do that. And there is a reason for that. Because we have all had similar experiences, but we are all different and are at different stages in our recovery. So instead of giving advice or asking for advice, we listen to the stories of others. This isn’t an easy thing to do when your emotions are screaming inside of your head and the pain is brand new and you just want answers…..but like many recovery programs…..this is the format and it is in place because it works best.
What tends to happen when someone asks for advice is that for one thing, it throws off the balance of the meeting. When someone speaks and ends with….so I don’t know what to do, can someone help me…..there is no “end” to their story. No “end” to their time. And without an end to their time, there is no beginning to someone else’s time. It’s hard. I get it. But we learn by listening. And we gift others by allowing them the time to tell their story. And allowing everyone to focus on what they are saying. We respect everyone and allow everyone a chance to speak….uninterrupted….without comments or questions.
People tend to want to have the answers. I was talking to a friend of mine earlier before the meeting and I told her about something I was thinking about in regard to getting back in touch with the bishop and something I wanted to request. Her response to me was “Oh, you don’t want to do that” and “Oh, they will never do that”. And I never even thought about her giving me advice because I have known her for years and she was just trying to help. But you can’t help that way. Even with people in our own families, it isn’t effective to give advice.
Another thing that is discouraged is asking for more information from someone who is speaking. While encouragement is always welcome, asking for more information by sending messages to the person while they are talking can be distracting to the person who is speaking and to everyone else who is listening.
Sometimes people shy away from saying anything because they are afraid it will be seen as giving advice. Something similar happened at the meeting tonight where a new person asked how to handle contact with their abuser. This is tough. Many of us know or remember how that feels. Are we supposed to forgive? Be friends? Be friends with other people in the congregation? Pretend nothing happened? Maybe just a little contact? Just as a friend, you know?
Many of us have been there in that person’s shoes. We all know that it takes time. We all know how painful the initial stages of recovery and loss can be. The confusion. The trying to figure out if the abuser is a good person or a bad person. The needing contact. The need for the initial love bombing after we have been discarded. The denial.
We want to help, right? The thing is….when we were at that point, it was so emotional, advice would not have stuck. The person will think we don’t understand how they feel. They have to feel and they have to heal….at their own pace. In that case, it is best to share what helped you and how hard it was for you. We may think we know how they are feeling. But it’s going to take time. And again, we all have been through similar experiences, but nobody is exactly like someone else.
Another big issue is religion. We all have different feelings about that subject. I find that often….especially in the beginning when people are struggling to comprehend the horror and confusion…..people tend to throw in a lot about God and “bless you” and God’s will and although it is not meant to be so….it can come across as preaching. I think this tends to be especially true when people are trying to still have faith and still want to belong and so they are saying the words that they have learned that all “good people” say.
People tend to get overly concerned about people’s faith or lack of. And that is a very personal issue. When you have had a traumatic event happen where what has always been perceived to be good and right gets flipped, it’s like we just don’t know what to do about Jesus anymore. Because the abuse screws that up for you. If they are lying and hurting people and covering things up….what else have they told us that isn’t true?
Be obedient. Don’t fight back. Turn the other cheek. Allow. Praise those who are divine and whose hands touch the sacred host. Forgive. He who without sin….
Does it make me a bad person to not trust anything that I have been told? To question everything? To not want anyone else to be in charge of my spiritual care? To not want a sexual deviant baptize my children or be a vice principal at the high school?
Okay, I digress. Some things trigger me more than others. My point is I have my feelings and other people have theirs. I will not talk anyone out of going to church and continuing their life as a practicing Catholic. There was a time when it brought me comfort to have the familiarity and the feeling of being safe when walking into the church.
I can say how I feel. My feelings. But I cannot tell someone how they should be feeling. In the same vein, those who attend support meetings need to know that religion is a very sensitive subject to most attendees. It’s okay to express your beliefs but more helpful to everyone if it is kept within the context of how your abuse affected or did not affect those beliefs….in other words….keep it personal and keep it within your own story.
To sum things up, what is most important when attending any SNAP meeting is respect of other’s boundaries. Keep things about your story and your recovery, stay away from giving advice. Think of it as if you were attending an AA meeting. The stories are confidential. We welcome and respect everyone whether it’s been ten years since the abuse or ten days. We welcome you if you’ve fallen off the wagon and you still have feelings for your abuser. That, you may find out…may be a shared experience that someone else understands.
It’s okay to recommend a book that has helped you or to share a link to a story that may interest people…..or the name of a good lawyer who helped you….or the name of your abuser if that helps you.
But remember that these meetings are for recovery. And that means everyone’s recovery. And everyone is at different stages of that recovery. Please respect that. Please turn off your microphones when not speaking. Please do not interrupt others. Please listen actively without asking for further information, and when speaking, please talk about yourself and how things have affected you.
We are all in this together and yet we are all fighting our own personal battles. No one knows what is best for someone else. Sometimes it may feel like we are accomplishing nothing. It may feel like while we are talking about our trauma, “they” are out there getting away with it. But I believe that every action and intention has a ripple affect in the world.
I can promise you that “they” don’t like the fact that we are getting together to talk about “them” or that we are recovering and getting stronger all the time. And I’m sure they don’t like blogs that talk about talking about recovery and strength. They want us alone and scared and intimidated and ashamed in a corner somewhere. Nameless and blaming ourselves.
But we aren’t going to scatter and disappear like dust in the wind. We are here and we are learning and gaining understanding and growing stronger together and within ourselves.