“Your head is a bad neighborhood. Don’t go there alone!” — 12 Step saying
Time stretches out ahead of you like a long night, and your head keeps up a constant chant of negative messages. “I’m not enough, No one cares. What’s the point? It will never change.” After hours of this, you begin to forget these are lies. You start to believe there’s no hope.
I’ve been there. If you found your way to this website, you probably have, too. We know how painful loneliness is, especially when it seems like our brain wants to kill us.
But who do you call? Who will understand? Who will even answer the phone?
When I started going to Twelve Step meetings years ago, men gave me their number and told me to call them, day or night. I didn’t believe them. And I didn’t call.
Until one night, when I couldn’t stand another minute of my brain’s incessant chatter, I called a man named Michael.
I barely knew him. It was 3 am. I knew dialing his number was a dumb idea. I knew he would be angry with me for waking him up. But I called anyway.
He answered the phone. And he wasn’t angry. It took a moment for him to shake the cobwebs out of his head, but then he talked to me. He said he’d been where I was and people took his call, so he would take my call.
Waking people up in the middle of the night hasn’t become a habit. I’ve only done it a handful of times in my 35 years of recovery. But I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that I can. Someone will take my call, no matter what time it is.
Like Michael, I have learned that it’s my responsibility to take those calls, too, because someone took mine.
It may be that no one who hasn’t been there can understand the need for a desperate phone call. Try calling your therapist, doctor, or pastor at 3 am. They don’t usually have much of a sense of humor about it.
But someone who has been where you are will understand in a way no one else can.
Where can you find such a person? Well, not in your living room at 3 am. We find them in Twelve Step groups, support groups, Celebrate Recovery meetings, and even sometimes in online groups. (In all the years I’ve been online, I’ve gained one friend that I stay in contact with outside the web, who would probably take my call at 3 am. But that one friendship is priceless!)
Your local Twelve Step (AA/NA) inter-group office likely has either a person on call or an answering service who’ll get hold of someone. If not, call one in a major city. There are also hotlines, including suicide hotlines. Your insurance may have a 24-hour mental health line (mine does). And you can call me. My phone number is on the home page.
The point is, you never have to be alone with your head. Never.
And here’s the good news: If you join a group that is healing, whether Twelve Step or otherwise, not only will you find people you can call, you’ll find that over time you don’t need to call.