I was flipping through my 12 & 12 yesterday and saw that I had highlighted an expression on page 57–‘anxious apartness’. The paragraph reads, ‘When we reached AA, and for the first time in our lives stood among people who seemed to understand, the sense of belonging was tremendously exciting. We thought the isolation problem had been solved. But we soon discovered that while we weren’t alone any more in a social sense, we still suffered many of the old pangs of anxious apartness. Until we talked with complete candor of our conflicts, and had listened to someone else do the same thing, we still didn’t belong. Step Five was the answer. It was the beginning of true kinship with man and God’.
I remember the day I highlighted ‘anxious apartness’. It was one of those expressions that described so vividly a feeling I was very familiar with, and one I still experience in some situations. I was in one of those situations recently–it was a funeral for the father of a friend of mine. Other than my friend, I didn’t know a soul there and I didn’t really want to go to the reception after the service, but I wanted to be there for my friend. Even though he is in the program, very few other people were, so there was drinking, which usually doesn’t bother me. However, when you add ‘anxious apartness’ to an event serving alcohol, it can be an awkward situation. I couldn’t wait to leave. What is interesting is that when I called my partner after the funeral and mentioned I didn’t know anyone, her response was, “Well, it won’t take long for you to change that!” Most anyone who knows me would guess the same thing–I’m generally friendly, and seemingly fearless in social
situations That’s the outside of me I put on display, but the inside is a different matter entirely. I am full of fear, terribly uncomfortable, certain that I will bore you within the first 5 minutes of a conversation, and feel completely out of place. Those old insecurities are still in there–and they’re ones that call for some kind of ‘social lubricant’ (if you catch my drift…) Only in the safety of AA can I ‘talk with complete candor’ of conflicts I grapple with like this, and would love to know if anyone else still experiences ‘anxious apartness’ and how you alleviate those old feelings of dis-ease.
Thank you for letting me lead this week. I will be celebrating 19 years this coming Wednesday and I have nothing but gratitude for this life-changing program and for women like you who walk this journey with me.