AGM October 2016
From 1966 until about 1979 I served as a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, when I was in my 20's and 30's. I don't have that energy level today!
One incident I recall vividly was during an overnight canoe trip. I instructed the Senior Patrol Leader to have my tent pitched in a specific area. He did not follow my instructions, but I decided not to question his decision. That night, we were awoken with a loud crack, and the crash of a hefty tree hitting the ground. We all exited our tents, and investigated. A tree had fallen in the very spot where I had told the Senior Patrol Leader to pitch my tent. I would have been a dead man. I thanked him, and asked him why he had my tent pitched in the other area. He told me that the site I selected didn't look right to him. I am here today because of the clear thinking of a teenager in a role of leadership.
I've been a member of my church for most of my life. Years ago, I volunteered for several church leadership roles, and was turned down, because the elders of the church thought I was too young (in my 20's and early 30's). And in one case, they refused my offer of leadership because I wasn't married! Since then, they have asked me to do more; ironically, now that I am not as physically able as I was when they turned me down. Since I turned 40, I have held most of the leadership roles in my church, and am currently church treasurer.
I began my relationship with GROW in February 1992. Jerome, our field worker, convinced me to be Recorder in a new group in Cicero. I have participated in that group since that time. I was then Organizer there for over 10 years, and am currently serving as Recorder. Years ago, I attended the O&R Training in Peoria. I learned much about GROW leadership from that training program.
One challenge I experienced in the group was trying the handle the incessant talker. They love having an audience to talk about themselves and their problems. On many an occasion, I had to use a watch to limit their time, and hold them to it. Some Growers will talk on like a broken record, and they must be held into account. A good leader makes these corrections gently, with loving care. We need to keep the group in mind when we make these corrections. Remember, the group is greater than the sum of its' parts.
One mistake I made was with a first-time prospective Grower. One of the readings in the Brown Book was perfect for his situation, and that was the reading I selected. After the meeting, he accused me of targeting him. I told him that was not the intent, but to this day I regret my decision. He never came back.
In 2004 or 2005, I volunteered to be a member of the GROW Management team, as well as a Board member of GROW in Illinois. I continue to serve in that position, and try to be a positive influence there, especially now that we are in a difficult financial position.
A number of years back, Carol (then the GROW President) asked me to chair the AGM, as she was having eye problems. I volunteered without hesitation, and I think that meeting went well.
I wrote my personal testimony a number of years ago. It starts on page 78 of the testimony book that GROW published in 2010:
“The Brighter Side of Life: Testimonies of Recovery Through GROW”
I am now dealing with what I call my “activity addiction”. It causes me to avoid doing what I need to do in my personal life; mainly, clearing the hoarded clutter in my house, catching up with my financial and end of life planning matters, and continuing to deal with my current health challenges.
Some members in GROW say that they are not interested in leadership. Others pay it “lip-service”, and don't follow through. We need to encourage them, and point out to them that it is in their best interest to ‘step up’. Everyone has leadership skills; and, if you haven’t already discovered them, the surest way to find them is to be in leadership.
Following are a few observations I've had about GROW during the 24 years I've been a member:
We need to prevent leadership burnout. I experienced this after being the Organizer for the Cicero Group for over 10 years, with no one willing to step up. I stepped out of the role, but continued doing the work of Organizer a few more years, until another Grower stepped up. Those of us who have been in leadership for several years need to give enough space for others to experience being a leader. It may be in having rotating leadership roles. It may mean that some long-time leaders step aside and take a role in supporting new leadership. In some GROW groups, leadership opportunities can be discouraged by Organizers or Recorders who insist on staying in their roles. Thus, new leaders are unable to step up. This kind of thinking needs to end. For a leader to be in a position for more than several years is unfair to the leader, and unfair to the other members of the group. Only through bringing fresh leadership in our GROW groups periodically, will our groups be able to prosper & grow into maturity.
When encouraging new leadership, the best time to ask someone to step up is during private conversation. That way the person is not put “on the spot”. The common practice is to bring up the subject during the meeting. This can be effective, as long as no members are targeted.
I recommend this reading on leadership from the Brown Book:
“Sharing What You Have Learned”, page 208.
Remember: a leader knows the way, goes the way & shows the way!
During my third hospitalization, I was blessed to hear about GROW during a presentation from a representative of NAMI. I knew I needed help, and believed that GROW could provide it. I attended my first GROW meeting soon after my discharge.
I had two problems at that time. Shyness and extreme depression. I knew talking about about my problems with depression would help but my shyness often prevented me from receiving that help from groups. I felt I was a “no hoper” when it came to shyness. Other than mentioning my name and that I sought help with depression, I barely talked during the meeting. Being in a group was so uncomfortable, that I didn't plan on returning.
During the week the Group Organizer reached out to me and encouraged me to come to the next meeting. Out of guilt, I returned and continued to attend meetings. I still dreaded speaking and even reading in group. Looking back, I think I enjoyed the socializing after the meetings more than the meeting itself. I felt comfortable and enjoyed the “GROW Friendship” that had been offered to me.
Sometime during my first month, I received some phone numbers but I didn't have the courage to reach out. One day a GROWER called to talked to me about one of his problems. This helped break the ice and helped me establish my first GROW friendship. (Friendship is the special key to mental health). By being a friend, I found a friend. Eventually, I became friends with many more GROWERS. One who is still one my closest companions.
Eventually, I opened up with the group's gentle but consistent encouragement. GROW started out by asking me to read. I still would skip the interpretations and discussions of the readings because I didn't think I understood them and would appear dumb. However, I kept on reading. (If a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly for a start and while you're improving).
After time the group was even able to encourage me to interpret some wisdoms and discuss the readings. I was becoming more comfortable participating during the meetings and was meeting regularly with my new GROW friends. I even had the courage to throw a party for the group on New Years Eve. (To have a friend, be a friend). I was starting to learn that “I alone could do it, but I can't do it alone.”
Eventually, I moved to another area of the state and started attending a different group. The Recorder position was vacant and I was encouraged to volunteer. I hesitantly accepted, out of guilt, believing that I couldn't do it. I was wrong. Again, GROW knew I could do it and followed up on their hope. They made me a hoper, when I felt there was no hope I could do the recording.
After a while I was asked to become an Organizer. I accepted and started to feel confident in my abilities even though I didn't have feelings of confidence. I did the ordinary thing despite my feelings and learned that confidence isn't an attitude but a state of mind.
About a year later, I moved to Florida. During my stay in Florida, I continued to face my shyness. I was using GROW principles even though I didn't realize it at the time.
As I started working in a group home for the developmentally disabled, I had to “decentralize” in order to do my job. It was necessary to keep my mind off of myself in order to safely care for my clients.
I also started playing guitar at my Church despite my stage fright. Soon, I learned to “Let Go and Let God.” I knew God cared most about the effort and not the outcome. I put the effort in getting up and playing. I often felt at peace, playing for GOD and focusing on what I could offer the Church community rather then how I performed.
I continued to stay in contact with my best friend from GROW. Although we were hundreds of miles apart, I always found that a “friend was as near as the nearest phone.”
After a year in Florida, I had a setback and needed to return to NJ. My GROW friends again proved to be as near as the nearest phone. I started to feel better and returned to the Organizer position. I no longer felt shy but learned I had another problem. I wasn't thinking “ordinary” in that I thought I had an “extra-ordinary” relationship with God. I was unrealistically “confident.” I was lucky to quickly recognize the new aspect of a maladjustment and stepped down as an Organizer. I started to learn from the program and other competent authorities how to handle and recover from the new aspect of a maladjustment.
I eventually learned a new angle on personal value. I am important, loved by God and have my unique part in my creator's healing and transforming work. However, I do not have more value than anyone else. Each of us has a part in God's work, but all of our parts are equally essential.
I don't always feel this way. I still often feel I am more valuable or less valuable than other people but know these feelings are not true. My feelings will always be there like my shadow, but I can keep my thinking sound and not let false emotional reasoning rule over me. I can do the good ordinary thing despite my feelings of confidence.
In the beginning of April, I became employed with GROW as a Field Worker in NJ. I still experience feelings of shyness. These feelings vary day by day just like the weather but I continue do the good, ordinary thing. I enjoy learning the program in greater depth and gaining new insights from the many different GROWERS I get to meet. I am able, thanks to GROWS's consistent help, to carry its hopeful, healing and transforming message to others in need, despite my feelings.
Thank you GROW for giving me the courage to do the “Good, Ordinary Thing” that repels me.
GROW in NJ
My story may be different from many others in how it begins. I was never beaten nor sexually abused. I've never lived in poverty nor been homeless. I've never consumed alcohol nor used street drugs. I've never committed a crime nor been the victim of one, beyond having a couple of items stolen.
I was raised by conscientious, educated parents who provided us kids with many opportunities both to have fun and to reach our potential. We were brought up in the church where we learned the importance of a relationship with God and of right living.
And YET I developed many of the same problems as those who have endured the above hardships. How did this happen? I can think of a few relevant factors: My mother says I was a nervous baby. I cried hysterically at the mere sound of crinkling paper. I was the first child and was aware of all the expectations that were laid on me, in terms of achievements, high moral standards, and reputation. When an adult spoke to me as if I were a naive or stupid, I was disgusted. I had an ego problem early on. I was nervous and withdrawn when I began grade school but did make a good, lifelong friend in the second grade. I became self-confident in academics and music but remained self-conscious and immature socially. I took myself very seriously and felt horribly embarrassed when I was laughed at or ridiculed. I had a nervous stomach at every meal which was not eaten at home.
Beginning in the 9th grade, I had serious sleep problems which have persisted though most of my life. I didn't accomplish anything halfway; either I excelled or I under-achieved, getting out of many activities or responsibilities when I felt inadequate. I was a perfectionist - all or nothing. I was sensitive - my feelings were hurt easily, and I felt bad for any other child who was hurting. Fortunately in high school my friends were neither drinkers no users, so no one pressured me to do either, which was good because I was a wimp and would have caved in.
My mother's controlling habits became exaggerated when I reached my teens and began to develop my own opinions and try to make some of my own decisions. She became manipulative, raging, and emotionally abusive. She made every decision for me, including how to wear my hair every day of high school. So while I had been dependent and attached to her during my childhood, when I was finally ready to be more independent and self-confident, I was punished for it. Mixed messages ruled the day, and I was trying to please an impossible-to-please person.
By the time I reached my 30's, I was a preacher's wife and proud mother of 3. My own anxious nature, my dependent behaviors, my irrational thinking, and the demands of family and daily life overwhelmed me. I couldn't eat or sleep. I did the laundry and helped the kids with their homework, but did nothing more. I didn't go anywhere, not even to church. I worried excessively by asking "What If?s" and envisioning only the worst scenarios.
Following a 5-week psychiatric hospitalization and with the help of medications, I discovered GROW. Thus began my recovering, overcoming, and maturing, which I have found exciting and worthwhile.
I share this much of my story in order to make two points: 1. We humans are capable of becoming twisted and impaired even without abuse, catastrophe, or losses. In this case, you need to work the same program for mental health as those with more tragedy in their lives, because the goal is the same. Healthy living is healthy living. 2. You may never know why you became sick or maladjusted, but you can get well anyway!
I attended GROW for five years in the 1980's and did recover. I focused on my family and church, maintaining self-awareness in balance with the bigger picture. I eventually returned to school, received my M.S. in Clinical Psychology, and gained licensure (LCPC) in the state of Illinois. I counseled for 17 years and then slacked off when my husband retired, though I do keep my license current. Last spring I believed God was leading me to start a GROW group in Salem. With the help of Debbie Ellis and Cathy Baker, our group began in May 2013 and has been meeting for a year. I have benefited and enjoyed watching our GROWers blossom and support each other.
Since my sickness in the 1980's, I have
Here are the helps from the blue book that have benefited me the most for 30 years. Most pertain to feelings:
I can compel my muscles and limbs to act rightly in spite of my feelings. (Conviction #2, p. 10)
I will go by what I know and not by how I feel. (Determination #1, p. 10)
Feelings are not facts. (Key 1, p. 14)
Feelings are like the weather. (Key 2, p. 14)
Feelings are like children, and I am like the teacher in a classroom. (Key 3, p. 14)
Which of these three things do I want most of all: To feel good? To look good? Or to be good? (p. 17)
Don't be an emotional reaction - be a person. (p. 17)
And also these:
I can be ordinary. (4th principle, p. 7)
The Overall Key to Mental Health (p. 9) This helped me to keep my 'intense reactions for the bigger issues of life" (#1, p. 30) - the 'greater things' in the Key.
Responsibility: However I came to be sick, it is my responsibility to get well. (#10, p. 25)
When the time to keep a resolution has come, don't examine any more the pros and cons. Just do it. (#2, p. 32)
All 4 points for decentralizing (p. 40). I cannot emphasize these enough.
Thanks to these principles, I have learned how to be matter-of-fact and confident and to have a healthier perspective on myself, life, the world, and others. I can laugh at myself. I am still me. I will always want time alone because that enhances my peace of mind and my relationship with God, but I have learned that social health is as important as the other aspects of our well-being. Principle 3 on p. 7 includes this statement: to grow out of maladjustment I need to become concerned for and to be helping others. And the 5th principle, same page, concludes with this: the measure of my maturity is my capacity to be a true friend.
I thank GROW for the development of my abilities to write, speak, and lead. Having become healthier, I can say it is true that "my special abilities will develop in harmony only if my foremost aim is to be a good ordinary human being." (#4, p. 7)
Through GROW I have gained the following strengths which I hope make me a good leader: patience; encouraging and sharing hope with others; and acceptance of others, not judging their character, background, or prospects and especially not their value (#1, p. 7). I remember what it was like to be a new GROWer, so I try to address their concerns and questions. And, along with many of you, I can empathize with others' suffering, from having "been there," and I will not ask a GROWer to do something which I haven't done myself or been willing to do.
At present I'm helping to start a new GROW group in Centralia.
I believe that God, the Supreme Healer (p. 0), inspired GROW in the first place, brought it here, and continues to mold and use me. I cannot imagine ever being whole without Him.
I'll end with a light-hearted metaphor: GROW is like Metamucil. Whether you are constipated or have the opposite problem, Metamucil will return you to normal. Similarly, whether you are too aggressive or too passive, express emotions too frequently or too rarely, or focus on yourself too much or too little, the solution is the same: the GROW program, community, and way of life.
I started GROW in 1985 after being hospitalized from a very dysfunctional marriage with physical as well as mental abuse.
It was about four years into the marriage that I realized that my husband was into Satanism, and I was slowly and progressively becoming sick, having hallucinations and delusions. It turns out, as I found out much later, my husband was drugging me with PCP. He and his family slowly started making me crazy, kind of like a brainwashing.
I started hearing voices and totally lost it. I went completely out of touch with reality. Bob said he’d have to take care of me forever and keep me because my mother wanted to send me to the mental hospital and never see me again. It was all like a big dream. It seemed like it wasn’t really true.
I thought that I was in hell at one time, and I actually thought that my ex-husband was Satan. I thought God was punishing me for everything that I’d done wrong. I’d hear voices of familiar people. My voices didn’t tell me to do things. I’d hear people talking, and it would sound like my sister, and I’d think it was her, or I’d think it was my best friend. They were more of outward voices rather than inward voices.
It got worse and I ended up in the hospital - my first hospitalization. My ex-husband was able to see me there, and he was still drugging me with PCP while I was in the hospital. My mother and my minister tried to tell the hospital that he was the problem. He was so good at what he did; he looked like he was the person who was on top of the situation. He actually convinced them that my minister and my mother were the people who were trying to destroy me. So he took me out of the hospital. He took me to his parents’ house for a couple of days and proceeded to beat the crap out of me. I can’t remember exactly what happened. He ripped the phone out of the wall so that I couldn’t use it because I had tried to call my mom. I couldn’t sleep of course, because of the PCP and the dreams. Every time I’d close my eyes, I’d hear voices. I finally got my ex-husband to take me to my mother’s house.
When I was able to get away from him, they took me to the hospital. They found massive amounts of PCP in my blood stream, and because Bob didn’t know where I was at, the PCP stopped going into me. It slowly worked its way out, and I started thinking straight. I’d gone probably close to a month without sleep. I was wired. I never did sleep in that hospital, but at least I got my brain back to where I could think again. I had counselors there. But I still hadn’t figured out that I was in the hospital. I thought that I was in hell for a long time. I thought that my mother and brother had driven me straight to hell and that I was done for.
I started attending GROW while I was in the hospital.
At first, the GROW meetings seemed weird, but of course everything was weird. But slowly after I started attending the groups, I started realizing that the people there were people; they weren’t just my imagination.
I didn’t say much in meetings, and when I did, it usually had nothing to do with the Program. I had very low self-esteem, so talking in front of people was really hard. It still is somewhat, but of course it’s gotten easier over time. But at that time my self esteem had gotten about as low as it can get, and I was on my way back up. I went down through the stages of decline that we talk about in GROW.
I had a really bad temper. I decided that everything the Program said needed to be changed. For the first three to six months, hearing the part about “being inadequate or maladjusted to life”, I thought, “This has got to go.” I remember sitting in groups and not listening to what was being said. People would give me practical tasks, and I considered them more of a put-down than a challenge. Slowly I realized that the temper was my problem, and being unreasonable was a way I had learned to cope with things.
I started realizing that the only way to get well was to cooperate with help. I came to meetings because I was getting something out of it. I had friendships, and that was the most important part in the first year or two I was in GROW. The real understanding of the Program came later.
When I was first asked to lead a meeting, it was totally devastating. When you’re up there starting with the half minute‘s silence to collect your thoughts, you’ve forgotten everything. So when they say, “We’ll help you,” I thought, “Yeah, right. They’re probably thinking I don’t know how to do this.” But I got though that meeting, and everybody told me what a good job I did. I realized “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly at first.”
Slowly I worked into being comfortable leading meetings and actually enjoying it. When I think back, I actually wanted to lead, but I wanted other people to say, “Oh, come on, you can do it.” Well, GROW taught me that if I really wanted to do something, I was the one who was going to have to speak up and say, “I want to do that.”
My favorite part of the Program was the “Principle of Personal Value” (Blue Book, p. 7). I wanted to believe that I had “my unique part in God’s work”, but God was one of my major problems. At the time I believed that God was punishing me for everything that I’d done wrong. I held on to “Personal Value” for a long time.
I have a whole different and much better view of God now. I believe God is a loving God. The Blue Book says that God is “a supreme healer”, and I believe that. Before, I thought that everything was me, me, me. Now I see I can’t do it, and I put a lot on God’s shoulders. It sure makes life a whole lot easier.
I liked the part in the Program about friendship being “the special key to mental health”. Through change in my relationships and change in my thinking, everything started falling into place. I started working on healthy relationships and realizing that I’m not just a problem person, but a solution person too. It built my self-esteem to the point where I was talking and working with people. I learned “to have a friend, be a friend” (Blue Book, p. 72). I had to learn how to be a friend and what the different types of friendships were. Then, with those three things—“change of thinking and talk, change of ways, and change of relationships”-- everything started falling into place. I changed my attitude toward people; I learned what it takes to survive. You either survive healthy or unhealthy, and I knew what I wanted.
I left GROW to have my second child. I also quit because I thought I had it together. About one year later, my life started going in different directions, and I realized I could use the group to keep me on track. When I came back, I was on a level where I could understand the Program, apply it and use it in my life. I wanted to do something with my life. I was working. I was out in the community. I had a nice home. I had a family, but there was still something missing. That was “Myself”.
I took on the responsibility as Organizer and thought, “Oh, God.” I was scared. But after I got started, I found it was fun. I enjoyed it.
Responsibility was the first thing I got out of being an Organizer. Of course I thought the group was my group; the socials were mysocials; the people in the group were my people, and if they were sick, I’d take care of it. I learned the meaning of “carry the message, not the person”, and how far it could drag me down as a person if I didn’t do that.
I started attending Leaders’ Meetings and writing papers. My approach was to write it like you see it. I went ahead “doing the ordinary thing” and realizing that “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly for a start…” (Blue Book, p. 32). It taught me “sufficient care and sufficient risk”.
I got support from a lot of good leaders in GROW. They “knew the way, and were going the way, and showing the way”. There are many things I couldn’t have done without them telling me, “Hey it’s okay; I‘m going to be behind you”. I did things I never thought I could have done, like walk into an orientation, make an appointment with a newspaper, do a newspaper article, provide transportation, make phone calls, and all the things an Organizer does. With the support and understanding of other people, I could do it. I think one of the first things we come into is that we don’t have “understanding, confidence, control and love”. Sometimes the people who are the leaders are the ones who give you that. They hand that to you and say, “You can have this. It’s a part of me, so it can be a part of you.” GROW works slowly. It takes time. The reason it takes time is it took time to get to where we were, so it’s going to take time for us to get where we want to be. GROW gives you the opportunity to start getting there.
There comes a time when you stop centralizing on yourself and start helping others. You start taking “your responsible and caring place in society” (Step 10 – Blue Book, p. 5). You become a solution person, not just a problem person. Just seeing that gives you another part of your life that you need to grow into. I think that’s where the spiritual level came in for me. I saw I was starting to grow into the “Five Foundations of Maturity.” (Blue Book, p. 6) I was starting to grow into the last one, which was love and caring for one another.
After some time I started being part of Regional and State Program Teams. Then I was asked to become a Fieldworker. As a Fieldworker, I sometimes get put on a higher level. I can remember having looked up to other Fieldworkers; the one thing I didn’t want was for other Growers to put me on that higher level. I never wanted to become so much a leader that I ceased to be a companion. I can remember that “Friendship is the special key to mental health.” I’ve tried to keep that in mind in the time that I’ve been a Fieldworker. I’m still growing.
GROW can and will always be able to help anyone who needs help and is willing to be helped. I’m glad to be part of an organization that is so well structured and well put together.
I became mentally ill during my senior year of high school. I began to self-abuse, and then went to the other extreme of spending all of my money. I became very depressed and tried to kill myself. In and out of hospitals for many years, finally I was diagnosed with a mental illness and placed on medications. I started to feel better, went on to college and graduated. Obtaining a job as a special education teacher, I taught for three years. It was during this time that I was putting myself in unhealthy relationships. It finally caught up with me, and I became extremely depressed and ended up driving my car into a tree at 80 MPH. I broke my neck in two places. I recovered physically from that accident over a long period of time, but mentally I was a wreck. I’ve had more than thirty ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) treatments over the years. I ended up in a nursing home, and knew that this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I had gone through all the services in the community and was written off as someone who would never get well.
I heard about the GROW Residential Center in Kankakee. After numerous contacts with GROW, I was finally accepted into the Residential Program. The structure and staff helped me right away. I realized I had to take responsibility for my illness. My doctor helped reduce my medications to half right away, and I started to feel better. Many parts of the GROW Program have helped me to gain insight and change my life. The “Three Practical Points for Control” (Blue Book, p. 32) made me realize I had to weigh the “pros and cons” and just do it. The “Emergency Measures” (Blue Book p. 32) helped me to learn to control my thinking and to think positively. The “Three Basic Changes” (Blue Book, p. 13) helped me realize that I could turn myself into a better person, giving me hope. I knew I would have to self-activate and practice the GROW Program over time to get well.
The friendships I made at GROW have gotten me through a lot of tough times. I got well because of their love, patience and commitment to me, and seeing in me what I couldn’t see in myself-- a person who has value, who could get well and live a better life.
Now I work full-time with developmentally disabled adults, and have held this job for over twelve years. I live on my own in my own apartment. I handle my own finances, and it feels great to be independent. GROW prepared me for the real world, and I feel I can handle life now as it comes to me. GROW SAVED MY LIFE, and I will always cherish the GROW Program. Recently I am realizing the value of giving back to others, and have been volunteering weekly at the GROW Residential center over the past year, sharing with others what has been given to me. I am finding this a very rewarding experience.
In May of 2000, I hit rock bottom. I thought I was doing society a favor by getting rid of myself. My parents had passed-on, and my family didn’t know what to do to help me. I had so much negativity in my life. I lived alone, which was not good. I thought I had no friends. So, one day I decided to get rid of myself. But for some reason, I realized I didn’t want to do it. So I called my sister-in-law, who lived out-of-state, because I felt like she understood me. I told her what I did.
Somehow she contacted my friends (as I said before, I thought I had no friends). They said something to me about going to the hospital. I said, “I can sleep it off. I’ve done it before.” My friends didn’t know about that.
I finally decided to go to the hospital if it made my friends feel better. Once I was there, I realized I was in the right place. While I was there, Jane, a GROW Fieldworker, held an orientation group. Jane explained how the program works – we help each other. If I would have had GROW before, I wouldn’t have been in the hospital. Though at the time, I really didn’t think it would work, but I thought I would give it a try. I was cynical.
It was a couple of weeks before I attended my first GROW meeting. That first GROW meeting made me feel so much better, as somebody else had a problem that was familiar ground to me. Also the confidentiality was something that “right struck” me. Like the Blue Book’s “Comforting Paradox” on page 9 says, “Mostly, when things go wrong, they’re meant to go wrong, so we can outgrow, what we have to outgrow.”
One of the first things that caught my attention in the Blue Book was on page 14, Number One of the “Five First Keys for Understanding Feelings”, “Feelings are not facts,” since I was frequently going by my feelings.
When I first came into the program, I did not like the First Step of the “Twelve Steps of Recovery and Personal Growth,” “We admitted we were inadequate or maladjusted to life” (Blue Book, p. 5).
At that time, I thought it was other people who could change, not me. Also, for a long time I thought that the “Principle of Personal Value” applied to others, but not me. It reads:
“No matter how bad my physical, mental, social or spiritual condition, I am always a human person loved by God and a connecting link between persons. I am still valuable; my life has a purpose; and I have my unique place and my unique part in my Creator’s own saving, healing and transforming work” (Blue Book, p. 7).
I didn’t tell everyone I was attending GROW meetings, but everyone could see the difference in me. At first, when I felt down I could call a friend from GROW, and they knew where I was coming from. I still get down sometimes, but I am not suicidal anymore. I know I have friends who will support me.
Some people with strong personalities get to me. There was one person who liked to tell me what to do. With the help of the group, I learned to speak up and get my point across without raising my voice. The group encouraged me in this area with the GROW wisdom, “Talk to rather than about your problem person” (Blue Book, p. 52).
My family and friends have seen the “Three Basic Changes” (Blue Book, p. 13) take place during my recovery. They are:
1. Change of thinking and talk.
2. Change of ways.
3. Change of relationships.
I’ve found out “the best in life, love and happiness is ahead of me, not behind me”. Through it all, I tried and still continue to renew my will to change with the support of GROW.
There are some GROW wisdoms that helped me through my recovery and continue to help me. They are:
“Those who matter don’t mind; those who mind don’t matter.” (Blue Book, p. 72)
“Be sorry for those who don’t understand (instead of resenting them).” (Blue Book, p. 6)
“God doesn’t make junk.” (Blue Book p. 21)
“Growth is painful – but permanently rewarding.” (Blue Book p. 27)
“If the rough road gets you there and the smooth one doesn’t, which are you going to choose?” (Blue Book p. 32)
Also, there is a personal motto of mine that I go by, and I think GROW does too:
“Don’t go in front of me, I might not follow. Don’t go behind me, I might not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
I attended the group faithfully for a couple of years until it closed. The group challenged me to change, but also stood beside me (which I wasn’t used to). The support from the group was excellent, as they realized where I was coming from.
My family relationships turned around, and it’s all because of GROW. The communication is better, and it has restored some unhappy relationships. The understanding is much better. I just want to thank GROW for it. It is a real blessing, and it seems that I can’t be thankful enough. The only thing I would want to change is finding out about GROW sooner. It’s hard to believe that anyone has had faith in me like GROW has, and I couldn’t have done it without GROW. I want to tell others about GROW because I have attended other kinds of groups, and none came close to matching the GROW program.
Thanks, GROW, for being there!