Giginon started in a church parking lot. I was there all anguish and raw emotion, dropping off my child then watching everyone else disappear behind the red doors of the chapel, leaving me alone. I was alone with no filters left and no ability to regulate even the simplest of emotions. When I saw her standing by her car it was like someone throwing me a life line.
And in a flash I knew I needed her; her perspective, her courage, her persistent hope, her resilience. She offered me a hug- me a casual acquaintance, a crazy crying woman in our church parking lot- and I clung like it was the only thing keeping me from drowning.
It was the moment that I realized I can’t change my situation, I can only change me.
I had tools, a year’s worth of excellent therapists and skills groups and family groups hadn’t been wasted. I had the tools, but I needed support. And I don’t mean BILY or Nar-anon or Al-anon or any other of those type of support groups.
And let me be perfectly clear right here: many people get great relief and help from those groups, could never survive the recovery process without them, and I encourage anyone who is struggling to try one or all with an open mind and open heart.
Unfortunately I am not one of those people.
Support groups were more painful to me than they were helpful. Hearing recovery success stories, seeing strangers stumble and pick themselves up again and again, being given books to help restore hope-all these things made me less hopeful, more afraid. Friends and family who didn’t intimately know eating disorders, addiction and recovery, mental health and adolescent behavior were not capable of the support I needed, although they were ferocious in their desire to help and to understand and I remain unwaveringly grateful for their kindness and love.
It turned out I just needed one person. One person who had been there, was still there, was willing to admit she didn’t have the answers but would be happy to have the conversation. I needed someone who knew that there are no words to make it better, but there are some practices that can make it suck less; someone who knew it was ok to laugh even though our life was crumbling to pieces around us.
That’s it. That was the group I needed.
So this group of just 2 was christened Giginon. At our first meeting, she listened to my story and shared hers. We laughed and cried and laughed some more. I discovered that hope during recovery isn’t a miracle or a gift, just another piece of hard work earned not given. Then we continued meeting, both of us recognizing the irony of meeting over a glass of wine and enjoying the rebellion of it. Talking about things that help, and things that don’t, whining about the general shittieness of life while reveling in its ephemeral beauty. We invited others sometimes, because it was really through others that we found each other, but Giginon worked because it was first just us.
My anguish receded, as anguish does, and left me thinking about how serendipitous Giginon was. It was because I, desperate in my isolation, was in that parking lot at the same time she was. It was because she was willing to take on some of my pain to help me move past it. And the unlikeliness of it, led to the realization that we all need our own Giginon.
We all yearn for connection and sense in our world, but don’t always have the means to create either. Sometimes life is a long hard slog, but there is incredible joy in it, and sometimes we need a group to help us figure it out. A place where our stories are unique, but we still belong, where we can be heard and not judged. We all need a compassionate ear and a slap back to reality– sometimes at the very same moment. No matter where we start, at one moment we will all need a gut wrenching cry that turns into a gentle laugh. A place to be safe in our anguish and in our hope, and a place to find joy in both. So welcome. Welcome to Giginon, a group for the rest of us.