One of my early memories is of being gathered around the dinner table and politely asking for the salt, “please pass the salt” and no one hears me. “Please pass the salt!” A little louder. I am the youngest of four. “PLEASE PASS THE SALT!” “Don’t yell at the table!”
In Recovery I learn my voice is important and people want to hear what I have to say. In meetings each person shares and everyone listens without crosstalk, feedback, advice or criticism. It is wonderful! In a business meeting everyone has an opportunity for his/her voice to be heard whether or not he/she has a vote. It doesn’t matter if you have been in the program for 30 years or 30 minutes! In fact, I usually hear the more potent question from the newcomer than the longtimer.
A few years ago I learned that in OA we have a Concept of Service that specifically spells out that in OA we all have a voice. (It is Concept 4* by the way.) It has become my mission in OA to make other people aware of the Concepts and how important they are to personal recovery. Pretty much they kept me abstinent through my cancer treatment. But that’s for another post.
Recently I have been working an intense step study and some new stuff has come up for me. I have received new insights on why I am so passionate about why everyone in OA has a voice. I believe I had shared in a previous post that I had been raped. Well, while working on my Step 9*, I have wondered, “What amends do I owe a person when I was the one who was hurt?” I mean, I know I needed to forgive the person, but amends? But he was on my Step 4* list, so yeah, I was confused. This study suggests: “For those where clearly they have harmed you or others without any provocation whatsoever, at the very, very least you have hurt them by allowing them, or the memory of them, to have power over you…You may also have hurt those same people by not telling the truth to others when the truth should have been told. You may have hurt them by allowing them to continue to hurt you or others… Try to figure out what harm you have done to all the people on your list. It may be subtle, like ‘I did nothing.’”
So I thought back to what happened to me. What had I done? What had happened? How does this relate to not having a voice? I was talking to my therapist last week about this and I began to remember some things. Him telling me not to tell anyone; “It will be our secret.” But the real surprise was remembering his hand on my mouth. I was physically kept silent. I had no voice. I wondered why I hadn’t cried out for help – I couldn’t.
What I did to myself after was to stuff it down with food. To the point where it didn’t even happen. No, this wasn’t the first time I had used food to stuff my feelings, but this was the most effective time. And it was during this time when I really began to pull away from other people – and myself. These are the amends I really owe: to my family and friends from whom I pulled away. I thought I was doing everyone a favor by not being in their lives. I know now that is not true. I used the food to silence myself!
I love my voice now. I use my voice when I write, when I speak, and even when I sing. It doesn’t mean that I have to be right, no, not at all. It simply means that I have the right to be heard. And so do you.
Remember, these opinions and thoughts are my own and do not represent OA as a whole.
*Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
*Step 9: Made direct amends to such people except when to do so would injure them or others.
*Concept 4: The right of participation ensures equality of opportunity for all in the decision making process.