Why Can’t My Spouse Come?

I’ve run across the question from new group members as well as on forums from those who aren’t addicted but want more information: “Why can’t I go to a closed meeting with my alcoholic/addicted partner?”

It’s sometimes a bit hard to answer. If you’ve been to both open and closed meetings as a member, you know there are differences, but just how those differences matter can be difficult to pin down. I’ve even been at a meeting where someone was asked to leave because they weren’t an alcoholic.

The usual answer revolves around hurting other members by a kind of editing that happens when we are talking to people who haven’t trod the same road.

The meetings rely a great deal on honesty. There’s both a willingness to tell your tale (and face the absolute truth of what addiction has done) and a willingness to hear others do the same. No pulled punches; no attempts to dress it up other than what it really is.

The stories are pretty horrific sometimes. They may involve crimes and will certainly mention disgusting things. For many members, it’s one thing to tell the God’s honest truth to others who’ve been there, but quite another to reveal such “secrets” to others. Someone who isn’t an alcoholic or addict, by their mere presence seems to be judging matters.

I know this isn’t completely rational, but someone from the “outside” comes to represent society at large – a society which judges addiction based on moral failure and paints us as failed human beings.

I recently heard someone describe how their veins would call to them, a very powerful story about how the act of injecting something into their arm was both painful and pleasurable – because it was so strongly linked to their addiction. How is one to express this in front of someone who hasn’t felt the call of addiction? Would that person have been able to even talk about it if someone’s spouse or non-addicted partner had been present? I don’t actually know, but I suspect they would have kept silent.

And the important thing was that the story keyed others to share about their own weird triggers – how one person, when they saw the label on one brand of bottled water would consistently mistake it for a vodka label although they didn’t look that much alike. I get that. It hasn’t happened to me, but I do “get” it.

And that’s the point of a closed meeting. The strength comes from the shared experiences and the ability to communicate with others who understand the language.

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