George C (NY)
The telephone was my first refuge as a would-be-adult. I spent hours in high school talking on the phone, and not just gabbing. It was there, in the dark safety of a private nook in my home, that I cried and complained about the imprisonment of being a teenager; schemed about where to score pot and how we’d secure a bottle of Jim Beam for an illicit afternoon; and dreamed aloud with my artist friends about the better world we were determined to make. There's something wonderfully anonymous about the phone, and (I remember disguising my voice when I’d call one woman in particular because I didn’t want her mother to make something conventional out of my calling her daughter), I could also hide. Never particularly comfortable with my body or how I presented myself to the physical world, I loved being able to communicate invisibly. So, in short, the phone was a great starting place for me with my intimacy. It was, as I’m sure it is for so many people, where I started with my sponsor.
Over time, I’ve had difficulty with various tools of the program. I still take issue with the social aspect of meetings and with the amount of complaining I hear going on there. Meetings are not really the backbone of my program, and, over the seven years I’ve been really engaged in SCA, I’ve got to a place where I don’t really have a formal sponsor. But the telephone and its ability to connect me with my old friends in program, those people who really watched me grow up in program and who have no need to instruct me or to re-arrange me, are my real program now.
When I first came into SCA in New York, it was very intense. Daily meetings, lots of meditation work, and constant telephone calls to my sponsor and those in my "class of ‘91". There was a group of us that used to meet at the Lamb’s Club and we were putting most all else of our lives on hold for this aspect of sexual healing. So, I could always find someone available. Soon, though, I had to leave town to do a show. What to do? Wonderfully, I was given phone numbers by people in SCA in New York and told that I could call collect. What a boon! Although I did attend meetings in Florida (in fact, the fellowship is so powerful that SCA members actually drove to my door to pick me up and took me to meetings down there), the comfort and shared knowledge I had with my SCA friends in New York via telephone was invaluable and kept me grounded and sane.
Only recently, I was back in Florida again, back doing a show, and the demands of the work were such that I really couldn't get to meetings. I could pick up the phone. And, since nowadays there are such things as beepers and voicemails, people can be much more available. I was able to reach someone who knew me, knew my history (which involved getting deep, fun crushes on unavailable younger men, which can end up torturing me), and, in a financially sound manner (when someone knows you, they can help you out in a matter of moments so AT&T need not grow rich over your recovery), I was able to get the advice that I needed. And how? Simply put it was this: "you don't need to apologize for your feelings nor do you need to take responsibility for his feeling uncomfortable around you". Al-Anon and SCA (I usually find my program binds the two together) in a handy sentence. Then he had to ring off and I was able to recollect my personal power and move on with my work and my projects. It was invaluable. It is invaluable. That’s my testimonial about the telephone. It is the handiest, safest, fastest tool I've got (with the possible exception of meditation, for which I need no interpersonal connection). It connects me INTIMATELY with all the rich warmth I remember from my adolescent Bye-Bye-Birdie time spent on the phone with those people, those golden people, who have come to represent the true, deep golden program I use for me.
Jeff Z (NY)
In my six short years in recovery, one of the best tools I’ve found to help me break out of my addict’s isolation has been the telephone. It hasn’t been the easiest tool for me to use. Often I’m reluctant to reach out for help, thinking that I can do it on my own (I can’t), or that the rest of the human race will be like my negligent family of origin (it isn’t). I also think, sometimes, that my emotional wants and needs are not worth addressing. They really are important, and acknowledging them is often the first giant step to moving forward in recovery. Here are some of things that I’ve found to be helpful about using the telephone in program:
1. Exchange phone numbers with people whose recovery you respect. My first sponsor suggested that I go to as many meetings as possible and just listen. He was right. There are sure to be a few people who share the same problem you do (or some variation of it) who will understand what you are going through and the behaviors you are trying to change. Go to those people after the meeting and talk, and maybe do fellowship and exchange numbers.
2. Call someone if you think you are about to have a slip. This can undoubtedly be the hardest thing in the world to do, but each time I’ve done it I’ve reminded my self that there is life outside of my addiction, a world of loving, caring people who can, will, and do listen. I also carry a card in my wallet with program numbers, just for emergencies.
3. Be patient, as people will not always call back. I’ve learned that people can be very busy outside of the meetings, or that they really don’t like to talk on the telephone or are wrapped up in their own problems. I’ve learned to turn it over. Making a phone call is a sign to my HP of my willingness to change, and sometimes that’s all that’s necessary.
4 If your sponsor doesn’t return your calls in a timely manner, set up a time to talk about it face to face. After about three weeks of leaving numerous un-returned phone messages, I finally told my sponsor that I wasn’t in this program to recreate the neglect of my childhood. He heard me. Once again, people can be busy, but if trying to reach a sponsor becomes an exercise in frustration, it’s usually time to talk about it in person and decide if there is a future to the relationship. (In my case, there wasn’t.)
5 Don’t rely on the telephone as a substitute for fellowship. I know that I can enjoy a good telephone gabfest, but I also know that I can hide behind the telephone and never, ever get out into the world and really learn how to be with people. I try to find a balance and save the gab sessions for the folks I don’t get a chance to see on a regular basis.
6 If you have something extremely painful to share, sometimes the telephone can be a good place to start. I recall the tremendous shame I had about my acting out behaviors at the beginning of my recovery. My sponsor was patient with me, and just listened when I called to talk. We eventually got to talk things out in person, but laying the ground-work via those initial phone conversations was a big help. 7. Get your phone blocked if phone sex lines are a problem for you. I’m blessed that this is not one of my acting out behaviours but I understand that the blocks are the most effective means of dealing with this issue.
8. Just because no one called back doesn’t mean you’re a zero. I used to pity myself because the one person to whom I gave my number took a long time to call back, so my answering machine would flash a big ‘0’, day after day. It took me a while to learn I could always go to a meeting if I really wanted to talk.
9. People may call back at the most unexpected times or from the oddest places. I get calls from program friends from all over the world, at all different times. I have one guy who calls on his cell phone while taking a run and he may be anywhere in the world. He’s hard to get time with and I enjoy our conversations, so I accept the uniqueness of the situation.
10. Go to meetings and get more numbers. I can’t stress this enough. Reach out. There are people who I now love and trust who I never would know had I not taken that first step.