Today is Easter Day, 2019. I guess that this day has come and gone for around 2,000 years, but I really don’t know nor do I care. I know it means an awful lot to an awful lot of people, but to me it means nothing more than the Easter Bunny and kids hunting for colorful eggs. And even those days, for me, are long gone unless I happen to be with any of my grandsons. Usually Easter is not that sort of occasion. I get the significance it holds for those who believe, but the premise behind that significance is, to me, nothing more than an impossible legend, a myth. It might transmit certain cultural histories, but the proof of the story to which it pertains is not nearly enough for me. And no, I am not open to debate it.
This day – this weekend – is also when an annual convention for a certain recovery 12-step fellowship takes place in Northern California. In fact, it is called the “Northern California Convention of <redacted> Anonymous.” This year it was held in Sacramento and there were literally thousands of attendees. It took place over four days, but besides a quick visit to register on Thursday, I only went for the main event last night. I was there early enough, however, to do some socializing and exchange pleasantries with a bunch of people I know, some of whom are close enough to be actual friends. Most, however, are not – at least in the strictest sense of the word.
In this, and probably other similar fellowships, the term “friend” gets thrown around much more freely than I would use it. And some might even be taken aback that I do not consider them friends outside of meetings and other “program” gatherings. Many would say that since finding a new life in recovery, they now have – I am not exaggerating – literally hundreds of friends. I cannot imagine how anyone could maintain even 100 friendships, never mind multiple hundreds. And at this convention, for those who have all those friends, they were surely in their element. All of that attention and all of that good will and all of that like-mindedness and singleness of purpose, combatting an affliction that could have killed us and did make our lives a living hell. Yes, we have that connection that is often formed when groups of people are faced with catastrophe, and long-term relationships spawned from that often come from it – but to be friends with everyone? Pass.
I’m sure there are those who are naturally affable and feed off all that energy; they make connections with as many persons as possible. I don’t. All of that all in one place drains me. I enjoy seeing old friends and acquaintances as much as anyone, but I prefer it be in a far more limited way. But I was there. I hugged a lot of people (we do a lot of hugging in this fellowship). I exchanged pleasantries. After a few hours, I needed to get out of there. It was not anxiety, it was exhaustion. And even though I saw so many, I missed seeing even more – and many of those I did not see were among my real friends. It is impossible to find everyone one wishes to find in a gathering that large. And, truth be told, I didn’t look that hard. Because simply walking around means running into too many “friends” who I must stop and talk to for a moment. Because that’s what we are supposed to do.
So I did it. I took my introverted self to the very place I am least comfortable. It’s not just crowds (though I will avoid crowds generally when I can), but a crowd where I knew so many by face at least, and many of them by name. There were also too many who knew me, somehow, but I do not know or did not remember them. That’s awkward. But I put on the face, danced the dance and did what I viewed as my responsibility. I took my 14 years, eight months, two weeks and one day of clean-time (no mind-altering chemicals) downtown to show that this thing we are all doing can work. That doesn’t mean I have to enjoy being over-stimulated, it just means I have to endure it. Seems like a small price to pay for the life I have today.