I’m supposed to speak at a 12-step meeting tomorrow, and I don’t know what to say.

“Speaking” at a meeting means that you share your experience, strength, and hope for a set amount of time, usually 10 minutes or longer (tomorrow it’s 20), while attendees listen to and ponder what you have to say. Sometimes it is recorded, sometimes not (tomorrow it is), and the speaking portion of the meeting is often toward the beginning, to set the tone or topic for the rest of the participants to (if they choose) refer and relate to.

I love how I wrote, I’m “supposed” to speak, like somehow that caveat might get me out of it. In fact, I am “scheduled” to speak, and barring anything beyond my control, I will wake up, get ready, and attend.

But I like to build in a little padding, evidently.

“Why don’t you just share about where you are?” my sponsor suggested to me today. “Just acknowledge what is going on, speak about what you are doing, and trust God with your words and the rest.”

Ugh, my ego thought. There’s that word again—trust. Even worse, it’s followed by that other one, “God.”

My ego is not found in my finest hour.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a topic. A few weeks ago I felt similarly, but was shouldered through by a subject I could wrap my words and heart around: “miracles.” It wasn’t great, but I was able to focus and find something in 12-step literature and my life to support it. The idea of “being in the moment” feels dangerous and unprotected. And yet that is exactly the mirror of what my life right now is calling me to be.

Could it really feel safe and supportive to show up as myself?

Lately I’ve been coming up against several standards of what I thought 12-step recovery held, namely, this idea of life being “happy, joyous, and free.” Over the years I’ve heard recordings of popular circuit speakers (speakers that tour many states and even countries) speak of how amazing and wonderful their lives are now, and how life is greater than they ever imagined it could be.

That’s so nice! And also . . . not what I’m experiencing.

The amount of strength I’ve had to pull from my reserves these past several months to wade through yet another swamp of self-discovery (<—nice title) feels far removed from what I want life to be. After eighteen years of work in 12-step recovery, I’m after a rest. A pool-side terrace, perhaps, where I can pull up a lounge chair, find a shady spot, and sip a festive drink (non-alcoholic, but still).

Besides, how can I speak of hope when my skin feels sunburned and the water keeps rising up over my head?

Maybe for me, this phase of recovery is about restoring my sense of self. And I don’t mean who I was when I was younger, or before my addictions took hold. I mean the sense of self independent of all of those factors, and of everything. The sense of self—who I truly am, not who I think I should be.

THIS is what breaks my ego every single time. This is what I find under all the fear.

I always thought I had to be in the best place possible to carry the message of hope. And I still believe time away from any addiction—be it sobriety, solvency, or abstinence—is where that starts. But I wonder if, over time, the true message can be found when I am speaking more about what it’s like to live the human experience, even if after all these years, there are still times when I feel like I’m barely making it through.

And noting that in that, there’s Power coming from a place other than myself.

I’ve included the topic of “courage” in this blog 18 times in the past 8 years (see previous posts #courage), as I’ve weeded through different iterations of recovery. But it seems this time the message isn’t so much about finding it or putting it into practice; this time it’s about being with it and allowing what it is to thereby shape me.

This time it’s about enabling the work of recovery to be evidence all of its own, instead of what I think others need to hear that it should be.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
—Douglas Adams