Recovery Meetings and Group Therapy Sessions
You look around and think, “We’re all women here. We have a lot in common. So why’s it so hard to relate to other women in recovery and form solid friendships?”
You’re not alone in wondering that. It can be a discouraging thought, too. In this post I’ll outline some of the reasons why it’s hard to connect with women in recovery, then offer solutions to those problems.
I can’t count the times that the following has happened to me.
I would attend a women’s 12-step recovery meeting or an all-female group therapy session for an hour or longer. I listened as women shared. They listened as I shared.
Through tears and laughter, we each related to each other’s stories.
Each woman who talked spoke on a deep and vulnerable level. Those who didn’t speak, nodded in agreement or even reached out a supportive hand to offer comfort or pass a tissue box when it was requested.
Then the meeting ended.
We closed with the Serenity Prayer or the clock ticked the end of the therapy session, then everyone got up to go. A few people would pair off with each other (friends for a long time, maybe?). But most rushed to leave.
There I was, left standing there, and wondering what had just happened.
After experiencing this for a number of years, I finally discovered a pattern of what’s going on inside of me at these gatherings and what I witness happening with the women in recovery with me.
That understanding has given me the insight to address the problem head on.
After experiencing deeply intimate sharing, you can take only so much.
Women’s meetings and therapy sessions usually meet once a week. That means that for days in advance, you can build up anticipation, fear, and excitement about unloading some sort of difficulty or sharing some breakthrough with the rest of the group.
Once you’ve shared it and the meeting’s over, you feel so vulnerable that you cannot tolerate any further interaction with people, especially if there’s a chance that someone might ask you for more details about your share. You just don’t want to talk about it anymore.
I call it the Dump ‘n’ Run.
You show up. You spit it out. Then you get as far away from that place as quickly as you can. Other women in the group do the very same thing.
In settings like the one I described above, the format of the meeting provides a pretty rigid structure. You meet for about an hour. You talk on the chosen topic. You have a short amount of time to talk when it’s your turn.
That kind of setting forces you to get to the heart of a matter pretty quickly. And if that group is the only place where you get to speak so freely about deep issues, you are going to get really intimate really fast.
Then suddenly it’s over. Your time is up. It’s on to the next woman.
What a draining experience this can be for you and for every other woman there. First, there are your own emotions about what you shared. Then you’ve got the emotions that come up for you when you hear what others have to say.
You just may be too tuckered out from feeling so deeply to engage in any type of conversation whatsoever. And other women are in the exact same boat.
Still, there’s a desire to connect.
Suggested Solution #1
Take a quick break alone, then return to where others are gathered.
You need a minute. So take it.
- Go to the restroom. Pray while you’re in there.
- Walk the halls. Pray while you do so.
- Walk around the building. Pray while you’re out there.
Do you see a pattern?
Take time for yourself. Just be sure to invite Jesus in. He sat with you throughout the meeting. He knows better than you do what you’re feeling and why.
And He has the power to help you connect to just the right woman when you return to the group gathered outside your meeting room.
You (and they) would like to connect but are waiting for someone else to make the first move.
This is absolutely understandable.
You’ve spent so much of your life hiding parts of yourself from others. When, in recovery, you begin to let some of those hidden parts show, it can be incredibly intimidating.
It’s also a completely foreign concept. It’s not that you don’t want to connect with someone who knows so much about you; it’s that you don’t know how.
So you wait for someone to take the lead. And everyone else is waiting for someone else to take the lead. Until no one takes any steps toward getting closer to each other outside of the meeting room.
Be the one to reach out first.
You might be thinking, “YIKES! WHAT?!”
Don’t worry. I’ll tell you exactly how to do it in three easy steps:
- When in the meeting, pay attention to who says things that resonate with you week after week.
- Pick one thing that woman says that was particularly significant for you.
- Tell her about it after the meeting.
The best friendships are the ones that start because we admire something about the person soon after meeting her. And the longer we know her, the more true we see that quality as a special part of how God made her.
Surely, someone popped into your mind when you read that. She is the woman you will want to approach after the meeting.
What you want to say to her could be something you heard in that day’s meeting or a previous meeting from several weeks back. Just be sure to tell her that when you listened to what she said, it helped you in your recovery. Then thank her.
When you first approach her, remind her of your name. We can forget easily or not always hear names as they are spoken in meetings and therapy sessions. If you are unsure of hers, don’t be afraid to ask her what it is.
Now, the first time you do this, she is not going to be expecting you. She may not know how to respond. The conversation may end abruptly in a mumbled, “Thank you.” Don’t be discouraged.
Though she may not show it in the moment, I guarantee that your genuinely spoken words of encouragement will stick with her and may even make her week. Be prepared for a warm smile from her at the next meeting, and be ready to answer her with one of your own.
Each week, you can continue the conversation. Ask her how she is doing in a certain area that you’ve heard her talk about. Offer up how you are in an area that’s a struggle for you.
Suggest stopping for coffee or sharing a meal after the meeting the following week. Offer your phone number. If she shares hers, text her once before the next meeting.
Slowly, you will find that talking with her will give you the courage to talk to others in the same way.
You and others are genuinely busy.
School, work, kids, a demanding spouse. Errands to run, bad weather to avoid, promises to keep. Lots of things can pull you and other women away from a meeting as soon as it’s over.
Set up your schedule in a way that sets you up for success.
Think ahead. Don’t place in your calendar any immediate appointment, commitment, or obligation right after the meeting. Build in time to be social.
That means you may need to tell someone that you are going to be later than usual. Or you might have to put off other responsibilities until another day.
A word of caution: be careful not to stack your schedule before the meeting. It won’t help you if you’re running late. You won’t be in the best frame of mind when you arrive.
In fact, if you arrive early you can chat with others prior to the start time. Doing so will likely put you in a “I’m at home” and “I belong here” frame of mind. You’ll help create an even better recovery experience for yourself.
We women can seem a mystery to each other. Sadly, we are sometimes standoffish, alienating, and rude. But we actually have more in common than we think.
When you recognize those commonalities and address them (instead of running from them), you’ll be on your way to forming friendships in no time.