no matter which group I attended, most stories...
carried a theme of family, personal, or developmental trauma, or all three. Internally, I questioned why much of the discussion was centered on the obsessive thinking surrounding one’s drug[s] or behavior of choice. Even though this was long before the science of trauma was mainstreamed, many sensed they were touching on deeper undressed wounds. As for me, I remained clueless.
Many group members would trade rationalizations for their parent’s behavior like baseball cards. It was a tacit way of acknowledging the elephant in the room without having to pick up after it. That was how issues were 'touched on'.
In this logical attempt to numb open wounds of the soul, a desperate game of wack-a-mole ensued with different forms of self-medication. Some worked as many as three 12 step programs at once, unaware their human nature was playing a shell game with various numbing agents, which included hyperactive group involvement.
Over time, I realized how life- controlling issues became rooted in a shame-based identity. With the advent of all things trauma-informed, shame and attachment trauma are now inextricably linked within the nomenclature of psychoeducation.
Sidebar Being intrigued with the history of twelve-step groups and the personal stories of the founding members, I was impacted by how their service to others birthed an international sub-culture via a simple “message”. Their results were both baffling and encouraging to many mental health professionals of the time as they struggled to replicate the same results.
However, in the interest of balance, Bill Wilson, one of the fathers of AA, remained addicted to nicotine and caffeine. Wilson’s demise mirrored my father’s as neither quit smoking, even after being diagnosed with emphysema. They persisted, even while requiring oxygen to survive. Both my father and Bill W. merely exchanged more than one toxic numbing agent for a few others.
For me, the primary take-away was:
There are principles that do not hinge on personalities, popularity, or even the integrity of the messenger. Transparency through humility has an resplendence all its own.