I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 7, 2012 12:52PM

AA, San Francisco Style

Rate: 52 Flag

golden gate bridge 

I went to support the one I loved.  I went to support myself.  It was dusk in the City by the Bay and the soft orangish golden hues of a day that was reluctant to say good night illuminated the city like halos. 

I went to support the others who would be there.  Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge with a heart that was dripping with love and pain ironically felt intoxicating.

Driving up the steep streets the city is famous for seemed like a metaphor for life as we eventually dipped down into the heartbeat of San Francisco, the Castro District, where Harvey Milk changed the course of human history by insisting that those who had encased themselves in closets of shame come out come out where ever they were and start to tell the truth.

I went to support the truth.  I squeezed the car into a parking space so tight you’d swear I was related to Houdini.  I had driven in with the one I love and we followed a line of people, almost exclusively men, all walking with determination and drive to enter the place where denial and excuses took a backseat and the air was filled with the real life truths of men and women whose secrets had been exposed one way or another and the only thing that really mattered was that day, that night, that moment.

The church had a large meeting hall and we were surprised when we entered.  There wasn’t a seat in the house.  We settled on a hard bench after we grabbed a handful of cookies and tea.

I went to support the anonymous, the misfits, the homeless, the wealthy, the flamboyant, the athletic, the weak, the successful.  I went to support all of them, addicts, just like me, and just like the one I was with.

We stood out like sore thumbs, the two of us, white wonder bread heterosexual women tucked in between men who smelled of sweat and fragrance, bitter and sweet, dashed dreams and realistic hopes.

Bare to the bones honesty was the theme of the talk.  In unplanned unison, the hundred or so of us packed into that room nodded our heads in agreement, laughed at the stories that we would have sworn someone was reciting from our most tightly held journals, and tears at the remembering, the longing, the disgust, the secrets and the good pathway out.

I went to support no more secrets.

As I sat there gazing into the faces of strangers who were just like me, I was struck with the good fortune we all shared.  We had all, at one time or another, been enslaved to a Presence that didn’t want our best or even our mediocre; it wanted our souls.  And we had, some willingly and some kicking and screaming, handed over our lives to the care of the better part of ourselves, to the wisdom and self-knowing that had been laying dormant for months and for most, years.

I laughed when I thought of the absurdity of it all.  The Us vs. Them as if those who hadn’t fallen into the trap of addiction to some kind of substance or drug didn’t have their own demons and habits that had seduced them into living lives false and uninspected.  Just like us.

The workaholics, exercise fanatics, religious zealots, the do-gooders, the academics, the internet junkies, action oriented goal seeking strivers, the actors, the pretenders, the tightly woven, and the perfectly put together. They who had also stopped being honest and instead chose to stay on a treadmill that offered no release or freedom towards the lightness of being.

Someone in the meeting said that the truth might just set you free and I wouldn’t disagree.  The last six years had brought me sobriety, the last six months had brought me hell.  No matter, I was thankful I’d given up the alcohol years ago.  Sedation is no way to find one’s way out of Hades and that night, being cocooned with those who were walking the same path was more than liberating.

We ended the meeting holding hands aspiring to change the things we had any real chance of changing, accepting the things that were out of our hands, and committing ourselves to be humble enough to at least attempt to try to learn the difference.

Friendly faces and handshakes were thrust on us in every direction and conversations were quickly made.  We felt as if we’d known one another for a lifetime.

Stepping outside where fog had changed places with the sun, I walked past the faces of other strangers, strangers who may not have needed that kind of meeting, but strangers nonetheless who struggled with the same kind of life difficulties as those of us who had just left that hallowed room.  It is no easy task to be rigorously honest with oneself.

I supported them.  I supported us.  I am them and they are me and we are all when it gets right down to it, One.




Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
One human family as the saying goes.
Be well MaryT.
I posted today about losing a friend to alcohol. Or, rather losing her to her choice of alcohol. Thanks for writing this.
Very meaningful. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Nice, Mary. Really, really nice. xo
You and all affected in this way are so loved and supported.
Beautiful! I loved this, the opening up that happens when we 'support no more secrets'. This is a resounding affirmation of what is true. You are me and I am you. We are all one. Mary, this was so naked and searingly honest. Bravo! Spoken from the heart with the kind of language the heart knows how to use.
"The workaholics, exercise fanatics, religious zealots, the do-gooders, the academics, the internet junkies, action oriented goal seeking strivers, the actors, the pretenders, the tightly woven, and the perfectly put together."

I can see how successfully dealing with an addiction can be character building and an emotionally transforming experience.

But -- just how 'addicted' are the 'other' -- the 'them'?

As a society, we tend to suffer more from dealing with excess than from scarcity. Poor people used to starve -- now they are obese.

But the analogy can become over used and perhaps even harmful.


Other than that one thing -- I liked this.
Lovely post. Or as we say in Las Vegas, "I liked your share."

@ Nick Carraway, you might be surprised at how very much can be classified under the rubric of "addiction;" it truly is One Disease with Many Manifestations.
addiction is no fun and hard work to beat, if it can ever be said to be beaten once we know it's in us. hey, there's some nice poetry in this piece as well. sounds like u been goin' through some changes.
Confession is good for the soul they say. You've got my number, call if you need a friend.
Poetic, honest, beautifully written!
A common theme today? Good work here.
Always great to see you Mary. Words of wisdom here. There certainly are many forms of addiction. Honesty is the key. It sounds like you've been very honest with yourself. Wishing you peace.
Am I wrong or does this post support my suspicion that easily over 65% of the adult population in this country a to one degree or another addicted to one thing or another in some effort to self-medicate some unresolved or undiagnosed and untreated mental illness? Just wondering? And oh by the way I've always been on board with the Serenity Prayer but I've always had trouble with the surrender to a higher power... love my man Jesus, but always thought his Old Man was just another crazy thug gangsta wannabe...
Powerful words, wonderfully written.

This is so beautifully written with so many poetic flourishes along the way.

Keep moving forward.

Yours and Mypsyche's excellent posts should be paired, Mary. I came to yours from hers, where I called her "Mary" while thinking of your title, which I'd seen first and remembered while reading her tale of disillusionment with a friend as recognition dawned that the friend was a secret alcoholic. Pain in hers and triumph of a sort in yours. "Of a sort," I know, because no matter how far we've come havoc is always only one drinky winky away. Congratulations on another sober day, Mary.
Keep moving, Mary, with your grace and wisdom.
A beautiful expression from the soul.

It's extraordinary how such beautifully rendered words are formed from deep pain. Here's to you. And clarity.
ladyfarmerjed: Thank you! I always feel your supporting presence and I want you to know that. Yes, one human family...something we would all do well to remind ourselves of daily.

mypsyche: I am still haunted by your most excellent post of today. Any honest addict will tell you that nothing brings them to sobriety but their own bottom, whatever that means to them. Our boundaries can be quite powerful, but not our agendas. Thank you so much for your honest sharing in your story of your own feeling of helplessness. It's why I hate Addiction so much. It seems to be a most powerful force. Thank you for reading this.

Sheila: Thank you for reading!

Joan: Joan, thank you :)

Cathy: Thanks for reading and I just want to add, that we (all of us) are affected in these ways.

Gail: Thanks for understanding what I was trying to say here. Think of how powerful our lives would be if we stopped with the secrets. If we just simply told the truth, our own truth. It would be insanely transformative. I appreciate you and hope to see you soon.

Nick: I must admit to some brain fog on my part because I was trying to see what you were saying, what your objection was (and I have no problem with objections, I love the discourse). I just wasn't sure what your point was so if you read this and have the time and/or the desire, if you could elaborate, I'd appreciate it. I agree that we are suffering with excess which every addiction and habit and unhealthy pattern supports. So much excess and so much scarcity. I'm glad you found some things that you resonated with and I thank you for reading and for your comment. My apologies for my brain today.

havlin: Thank you and thanks for your thoughts on Nick's comment. We live in a culture that is addicted to so many things...happy endings being one of them. It's a think outside the box kind of thing I think. And thanks for the Vegas interpretation, I'll try to remember it.

Ben Sen: Thank you for reading and your observation that rings true for me. Yes, I've been going through lots of changes, and in some ways, simply returning home to myself. I think I had wandered off a long long time ago without even realizing it. It's a time of learning and I'm more than appreciating the treasures being left behind in the rubble. Thank you for being who you are.

Tom: Yes, I think confession is good for the soul because it's in the confession that we get validated for our feelings. We certainly aren't alone in how we feel. Thank you so much for reading. I truly appreciate it.

Elizabeth: Elizabeth, thank you so much for your generous comment and for taking the time to read.

bobbot: Yes it seems to be a common thing. Thank you so much for reading.

trilogy: It's always great to see you! Honesty is so important and it doesn't need to be brutal, just honest. Thank you for your good wishes. I'm getting there.

jmac: You are not wrong with the exception of your percentage. I'd say it's more like 95%. We live in crazy stressful times with all kinds of seductive offers thrown our way on a daily basis to numb out in some kind of way. As for the surrender to a higher power, I hope you noticed in my post that rather than say, "We handed our lives over to a power greater than us..."I said, "We handed over our lives to the care of the better part of ourselves, to the wisdom and self-knowing that had been laying dormant for months and for most, years." It is my belief that we are inherently self-correcting, self-generating, and self-healing creatures. I think most in AA would agree that the interpretation of a "higher power" is entirely left up to the individual. Too many, myself being one of them, were burned and scorched by the tenants of religion and an angry and vindictive God. I've been ruined in that way and I actually am thankful for that. My own ability to heal is my higher power and I say that with all the humility I feel. I say it out of respect to the way we are designed. You and I are in complete agreement about that one. Thank you so much for reading and your good comment.

Unbreakable: Thank you very very much!

Diary: Thank you so much for reading and your generous comment. And yes, "keep moving forward"'s such a silly waste of time to live in the past and for me, is a guarantee of dragging me down. I love your good reminder.

Chicken Maaan: I saw your comment on Mypsyche's post and guessed about the mix-up. Yes, our posts were good compliments to one another. I am still haunted by her post and touched deeply by it. I've been the addict and I've been the one affected by the addict. And there's not a whole lot of difference sometimes between the two. I can say that for today I was successful, because that's all I've got anyway. You're would be pure foolishness to see that chapter as closed. I would be setting myself up for a big time humbling and Lord knows, I get enough of those as it is! Thank you so much for reading both of the posts about addiction and its effects.

Lea Lane: I'm always right behind you Lea! Thank you so much.

Stim: Thank you very much, truly.
Murder of Crows: Thank you so much for reading and for this,
"It's extraordinary how such beautifully rendered words are formed from deep pain." I spent the day in a fair amount of pain and it was becoming easy to forget the gift of it. Thank you for your good reminder.
I'm glad you went and glad you wrote about it, with rigorous honesty and compassion.
Brave lady. I tried Al-Anon so I could be supportive. Had to find another way. Did succeed in finding another way, which is saying something
This piece showed tremendous courage. I am not an FOB but I have family members who should be, and I've thought about going to AlAnon. Thank you for this. i'm sure this piece helped people more than you know, plus it it very well written and engaging. It pulls t he reader right along in the story. We are there with you. Well deserved EP and placement on cover. RRRRR
It's great to have a visual of one of these meetings. It means a lot. Thanks.
You captured it! The earthy and ethereal qualities of a meeting, the emotions, connections, laughter and tears of sharing; sharing that re-frames pain and shame into belonging. Your experience is amazing. Your description of it -- I'm speechless. And your observation that you were supporting no more secrets. Wow! And ... and ... I could go on and on. My heart is brim full of your delectable honesty, insight, and imagery. Simply brilliant -- like you!! xoxoxoxo
Thanks Mary. I always want to hear your take on this topic and I know I can trust you for honesty :-)
Mary, thinking of you and the one you love. Hope both of you are well (and it sounds like you are).
Really striking depiction mary. Good luck with it.
Mary, facing such things with others who go through it is such a powerful thing. Truth between all of you.and importantly...with yourself even more powerful.
The ability to share here...priceless.

You should know this.
A vision of your self as you would have YOU be... is a powerful tool. Here is the me at the end...the potential....and look at how great that image looks!

My aunt taught me that.
Beautiful post and writing...thank you so much for sharing your evening, the love, pain, and the honesty. It does bring healing somehow.
I admire your courage in facing your reality and your clear honesty in sharing it with language that is so poignantly poetic. Thank you, Mary. You are a strong and determined lady.
Thanks. That was cool. Just right.
God, I can only imagine what a tough yet deeply moving and connecting thing this is for someone to do. To stand right beside ... to stand with ... a loved one who struggles with addiction ... to be as one ... must be so very, very moving and very, very powerful, Mary.

Thank you for the clarity of the experience that you share here.

Thank you for being a courageous, caring, sensitive, nurturing and empathetic human being who reminds us all that we are just that ...human beings. None of us are perfect ... but God bless those who see their failings and try with all their might to be all they can be. And God, please bless those who stand as one with another in difficult times ... for they are indeed the salt of the Earth.
standing here with you, mary, with your sisters, as one of your wish-i-were sisters, understanding what you mean, what you felt.
A truly beautiful post, not one word too long or too short. RRRR
What a great piece. Brings back memories. AA in San Francisco was a party. We used to have a clean and sober club in the Castro to hang out at. I dated folks I met in AA. I was even an in-demand speaker. It was an important part of my life for a short time.

I'm not totally on board with AA because it tends to be a bit doctrinaire and inflexible, but I had a great three years participating in it until I realized I was not an alcoholic. Don't know how I figured it out, but I knew I could drink safely, and you can't have the ritual and the performance and the communion of AA, and a drink now and then, too. My AA friends, those supportive friends, decided I was a "slippery person" whom they could not hang around with anymore.

So, 25 years later, I'm still not an alcoholic, and I miss that wonderful freedom of the being in the space of the damaged and struggling. It was the only place that I've ever been that it was ok to be a fuck-up. I loved it while it lasted.
Margaret: Thank you so much for reading. "Rigorous honesty" is a bit of a challenge I'm finding to do on a regular basis. It requires quite a bit of mindfulness. But so much more preferable to "brutal" honesty. No one needs that.

Nikki: There are many different roads to get to the same place. Alanon is a great support system for many and doesn't resonate for others. When I quit drinking almost six years ago, I did not use the support of AA to quit. I had an abundant toolbox (cognitive behavioral therapy and spirituality) that helped me tremendously. I'm glad you found your way which, you're right, is saying all that needs to be said. Thank you for reading and your good comment.

Bernadine: Thank you very much for your supportive comments about the piece. It would be very gratifying to know that this was helpful to some. I have started going to alanon and I needed to find the right group. The group I found is very solution oriented which is the way I work with myself and with my clients so it's been a good fit for me. And no matter where we go, self-examination is always the best way to start.

meghill: Thank you. I'm glad that my words were able to give you a picture of what the meeting was like.

Joan: Love you!

Kellylark: Thanks so much and I try to be as honest as I can, I'm sure I can improve more on that area. I appreciate your support!

montanarose: Thanks Ellen! Much to catch up on. Puppy visit next week if you're around...

Abrawang: Thank you for reading and for your good wishes. I appreciate them.

JD: Beautiful words of encouragement and I thank you very much for them.

clayball: "love, pain and honesty"...your comment reminded me of the healing that can occur when all three components are present. Your comment was an encouragement. Thank you!

Fusun: I haven't been feeling so strong as of late so words were a balm. Thank you for reading and expressing. I appreciate you.

Cary: I feel honored you came by to read. Thank you.

Little Kate: I have read your comment to me on my "Cold Stone Sober" piece from awhile ago many times. I found it so encouraging and compassionate and I wanted you to know that. And here you are again, encouraging and supporting me again. I feel a kindred spirit with you Little Kate and I want you to know that. Thank you thank you thank you.

femme: We are sisters, you and I, and I make that declaration right now. You know it, I know it. Thank you for standing next to me. It means the world.

wendyo: Thank you so much. I tend to be too verbose and have been working on that so your feedback is very nice.

Sirenita: Yes, I understand what you are saying. When I quit drinking almost six years ago, I did not relate to AA and did not use it for my recovery process. However, what I appreciate about it are two things: The 12 steps (which I'm embarking on now through Alanon..cuz behind every addicted woman is usually a co-dependent woman) are steps that every human being could benefit from doing, as long as they feel comfortable reframing and rewording the steps in ways that resonate with them (so many get tripped on the "god" piece or the "higher power" piece and this is quite easy to negotiate, even for the atheist). The second is the support. You just can't beat the support available almost 24/7 from this.

As you rightly point out, anything can be made into an addiction, including AA. And anything can be made legalistic which is what you experienced and I understand. Moderation Management ( is an excellent alternative for the problem drinker because it teaches that there is a pretty large percentage of people who can learn to manage their drinking responsibly. The big emphasis in the addiction field right now is on "harm reduction" which focuses less on abstinence and more on what are the things we are doing in our lives that cause harm and what do we need to eliminate or add to our lives to reduce it.

As long as we are in community with human beings, we are among the damaged and the struggling, aren't we? The refreshing thing I've found about going to these meetings as of late is being in the company of people who have no problem admitting that.

I really appreciated your comment and your perspective. It's an important one to hear.
It is no easy task to be rigorously honest with oneself.

I supported them. I supported us. I am them and they are me and we are all when it gets right down to it, One.

The ways in which you practice rigorous honesty, in your writing and in your life, challenge me - as a writer, and as a person. Perhaps I should say "inspire" rather than "challenge." But I read this post this morning, and have been thinking about it all day, rolling it around in my head and heart.
Oh Mary .... thank you.

Just moments ago I read of some good news for another OS friend, and then I came back here and found your words to me. I am in awe of what life brings at times and right now this is one of those moments.

You have touched my heart in my morning here ... and for some moments now I have sat in warm wonderment, sincere and deep thankfulness and I am overjoyed. I am overjoyed for the gift of hearts that hear one another ... a kindred spirit ... the gift of you.

Thank you for all of this, Mary.
recently Ive been going to some CODA mtgs which originally started out as a mtg for ppl who have loved ones who are alcoholics & is modelled on al-anon. but CODA has become very powerful in its own right because its based on very sound psychological principles & research. I havent ever seen anyone mention CODA ever here on open salon but its powerful medicine & want to recommend it to many. if you feel some kind of psychological imbalance in yourself or others, check it out! CODA is a sort of advanced al-anon if you ask me, because its about any kind of addiction. I may be writing further on it myself depnding on my mood... CODA would cover the kind of issues you see in the headlines like eg with amy winehouse, michael jackson, whitney houston.
Thank you, Mary - just what I needed, right this moment.
Lovely. (I can't believe you were just blocks from me - next time *call*!)
Great post.

Years ago I went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting for a class assignment, and I was struck by the sincerity and the genuineness and the openness of the attendees, who very apparently had gone through the fire and survived -- and who were, it seemed to me, better off for all of it than are those people whom we call "normal"...
I felt like I was there, down to the rich, masculine scents and the fog changing place with the sun (which is does ever so quickly in SF). Glad for your inspiring experience.
I support you, and am so proud to know the striving, authentic seeking, loving you and yours.
Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it.
I've been struggling for many many weeks now on several fronts. So I came to see you here, and here I found the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. One more to add to my collection from my own post to celebrate her birthday! Crossing that bridge, you brought me home to the place where I found comfort for the last three decades. But also a place where I was forced to endure unbearable pain that made me stronger. I loved seeing you there, through your eyes, in a place many would be fearful of, but where you came to experience the oneness. Yes! we are all the same. That is the greatest secret of all!