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When God Laughs: 12-Step Magic at Work

Before recovery, I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I was afraid I’d break.

Helen W Mallon
5 min readMar 2


I used to be a pro at helping people. Well, until I got into recovery. Working the steps is like leaving an egg in a glass of vinegar. The hard shell gradually dissolves, and you end up with the same egg. But it’s soft and undefended…Vulnerable.

Pre-recovery, I was a pro at helping, partly because I have actual gifts and I enjoy working with people. All fine. But without consciously doing so, I surrounded myself with clients who didn’t intimidate me. Who were always, always grateful for my help. Who didn’t poke too hard at my shell.

My 12-step meetings are Zoom-based. Initially I thought I was uncomfortable in meetings because I was new. Who wouldn’t be? When a new weekly meeting opened up that needed a host, I jumped in. It’s what I do! It’s what I’m SUPPOSED to do! I enjoy this kind of thing, right? But something felt very off. I’d finish out a meeting that went well. I knew I’d done a good job, but I felt like shit. This happened again and again. I dreaded those meetings.

Before recovery I thought I was good at vulnerability. I open up easily, but I was actually comfortable being vulnerable only when I felt in control. My friends wouldn’t have said I was particularly controlling. But, say, I’d be happy in my kitchen with my best friend until my husband walked in to join the conversation. Everything stayed friendly. But the two of them might go into some topic that doesn’t interest me, and I’d get very squirmy. Again, I feel relaxed with him, but add a well-meaning cousin or two to the mix, and I want to dive out a window.

My little egg worked hard to keep a safe distance and not get cracked. I’m not talking about people being unkind or judging me. I knew they didn’t!

What do you do when you know everyone has your best interest at heart, and you still feel an alien from the planet Zorg?

If you’re in recovery, you pray. If you’re in recovery, you notice when the same dynamic happens as in other relationships. This was especially painful because my fellow addicts speak my heart-language. I knew the problem wasn’t them. It was me.



Helen W Mallon

Writing in the space of healing and spirituality.