Having experienced LDS Social Services as a foster child in their care, I have little regard for the institution.  My sisters and I were part of a pilot program in Vegas (Victor Brown, Jr. was the boss—-he was pretty cool) for foster care.  We were in a few good homes, but mostly not.  Many were inactive and two were terribly abusive.

I loved my first, gee, I forgot what I called him.  Maybe I just called him my social worker.  His name was Brother Tucker and he took a lot of time helping me deal with the terrible ordeal of being separated from my sisters.  For the first half of that year, I attended Las Vegas High School and I had no friends.  None.  This is me, you guys.  I was so deeply depressed that, a junior in high school, I went to school and ate and sat alone.  Everywhere.  I recall being intensely lonely, but too upset about my family situation and absolutely unable to adjust to living with strangers.

All the other “social workers” we had mostly preached at us and seemed not to understand in the slightest our feelings or experience.  Nor did they appear to care unless we were all bearing our testimonies.  They were immature socially and emotionally, in my opinion.  Perhaps even spiritually.

Oh, there was a memorable day when I got in a fight with my foster sister, took off with a carload of guys at the skating rink, who gave me lots of beer and got me drunk, and gave in to my plea to drop me off at the LDS Hospital to look for my psychiatrist.  I wandered drunk around the nursing student housing until somebody called the police and I was thrown in the drunk tank. 

I’m amazed that I didn’t end up raped and beaten, but those boys did nothing but try to get rid of me.  Perhaps many of you can relate to trying to get rid of me and add “drunk and sobbing” to the picture and sympathize with them.

 I’m active in Al-Anon, a 12 step program for family members of alcoholics (I qualify through my parents) and sporadically attend AA.  I love the AA meetings.  We meet at the bowling alley a few times a week and we have the best hamburgers and it’s really a cool meeting.  The spirit is there, you guys.  No lie.  These guys believe in God more than any active Mormon you will ever run into.  They talk about God for an hour.  I feel comfortable there.

 Bill has decided he needs to have more of a personal relationship with God and, while I’ve avoided the church’s 12 step meetings, I thought maybe through the 12 steps, he could do that.  My AA is a closed meeting, alcoholics only.

 We were late to the first meeting, having been given bad directions and driven halfway to Panaca.  I didn’t expect to feel uncomfortable, I’m an active Mormon and know the drill from 12 step.  But I totally had a meltdown over it. 

First thing I noticed?  They close each share in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  In AA we close by saying, “that’s all I got” or “I’ll take another 24″ or we just grimace and shrug.

Then I was sitting next to a cute little Mormon who I imagined exuded fumes of disapproval at my alcoholism.  I felt rejected and just panicky.  I started bawling about halfway through, thinking “here is another church thing where I’m not Mormon enough to fit in.”

Bill loved it, he met a fellow ice fisherman.  He doesn’t know if he’s going to find God, but if I go with him, he’ll probably enjoy himself.

After the meeting was over, I just broke down totally.  Bill was off eating cake and visiting his fisherman friend and the fisherman’s wife came up to me and hugged me.  She said, “Honey, it’s okay.  You’ll get the hang of it.  The steps work and the program is terrific.”

I said, “…(well I sobbed it out)  I know the program.  I’ve worked the steps three times.  I’ve been in recovery for 10 years.  It’s the church!  The church!  Too much church!  I don’t feel safe and I don’t think I can do this!”

I stopped short of saying, “you all suck and you cute little thing, you can kiss my **** and you’re no better than me.” 

I did not feel the spirit and I heard more talk of church than God which makes me so frustrated.

I bawled all the way home and I bawled all night and the next day.  Don’t you guys feel sorry for Bill?  He just sort of ignored me and got some ice cream and watched TV and I went to bed just having the biggest pity party.

Next week, Bill is “I might have to work late, I don’t think I can go.”  Right.  Well, recovery is work and he never wants to work that hard.  But I drug my behind back to that meeting.  I told myself I couldn’t give up after one meeting.

Oh, in the meantime, as per my MO, I’d called the head of the program in SLC and we argued semantics.  He said that, oddly enough, I wasn’t all that unique and that others who liked AA felt uncomfortable at those meetings, too, and maybe it wasn’t for me.  The second he said that, well, the fight was on and I am so going to prove him wrong about that.  One thing we argued is how they close. 

Somebody gives a closing prayer.  We all bow our heads, etc. and close that way.  In AA, we stand, we hold hands and bow our heads and we say whatever the leader chooses.  I usually choose the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s cool.   We stand reverently, grasp hands, and the leader asks “whose father?”  And all together we say, “Our father,”  It’s spiritual.

This guy says to me when I said why don’t we do that, “People can get attracted to each other and have affairs and have unclean thoughts.” 

I snorted, “well, that’s just silly.”

He snorted back, “it’s not silly.  It happens.

I said, “I’ve been holding hands with men in the program for ten years and I’ve never had an improper thought.  You’re nuts.”

That’s not word for word, but the gist.

Anyway.  I go back to the meeting.  I get a hug from the very sweet and wonderful people who are there, I think, as missionaries to make sure we don’t screw up in any way.  A guy leads an opening share and we read the steps, which are amended to the church.  I don’t find that too objectionable.

I was the first to share and I said, “You guys, I’m gonna be honest with you.  I’m not comfortable here.  I have always struggled with not belonging in the church……”  and I spilled my guts.  Oh!  I cussed!  I’d written down in big letters on my notebook “NO CUSSING!”  And then I said, “All my life I’ve been a mean old bitch”  and gasped and put my head on the table.  Honestly you guys I did not mean to cuss.  I took it harder than they did.

Well, it went better and I felt the spirit more and that girl—that cute little Molly Mormon?  Not.  I stared at her and thought “I am so crazy.  I cried all night partly because I thought she rejected me.”

I don’t know how it’s going to work out there.   I’ll probably be writing letters to the GA’s how to improve and objecting.  You know me.  Oh, the ending of shares in Jesus’ name?  The guy told me that’s not in their program. He said, “Somebody probably did it once and everybody else just followed suit.”  Geez, we are such sheep.

But, as often happens, I’ll go to a meeting for someone else and realize how much I need it.  I need to find a way to integrate all these parts of myself with my membership and discover what I really believe.  And, I feel, be more valiant in expressing it in church.  Because I feel stupid, I think anything I have to say on the truthfulness of the gospel or my big faith in Jesus would be so elementary that it would embarrass myself and others.  I realized that I can learn here in this LDS meeting.

One other thought.  When I’m in an AA meeting or an NA meeting, I also feel a bit of a sense of “otherness” that comes from my active Mormon status.  If I’m in a group that eschews Mormon values and if anyone acts critical, I will go after them.  I am ever the iconoclast.  It’s like “I’m the only one who can put down my church.”

One last little story.  I was at a mixed NA and AA meeting once and I sat next to this long haired addict, who was a friend of my son’s.  He kept giving me funny looks (although I write liberally, for the most part, I look like a typical Mormon mom) and finally he leaned over and whispered, “What’re you doing here?”

And I whispered back, “Same thing you’re doing here, hon.”  And I grinned.