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.