Recovery in the Jungle

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12-Step Meeting on a Beach

The jungle of Costa Rica seems an unlikely place to find a 12-step meeting, but during a recent vacation it’s where I found myself. I wanted to stay committed to attending meetings regardless of where I was.

The international directory online listed the location. I pointed and the taxi driver took off with a shrug and dropped me off at the entrance of a national park. What was I doing? It was nearly dark, the monkeys were chirping, and the local Ticos were packing up their coolers and leaving the beach for the day. I wandered through the thick trees towards the sound of the ocean. This time, I thought, my adventurous spirit has taken me a little too far. Why were the monkeys laughing? After a moment, I realized – I was hearing people laughing and talking. I followed the sounds further out, listening to the crash of the waves and there in the clearing, I saw it: circle of white plastic chairs, candles lit inside the circle, and a pile of the Big Books of Alcoholics Anonymous.

There were posters set up with the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. I don’t speak Spanish at all, but the familiarity of the posters came right through. The format of the meeting – readings, main speaker – made me feel at home.

The greeting I received was one of surprise and warmth. This remote mountain community supported recovery! As I sat in the Spanish language meeting, everyone felt familiar and dear to my heart. When the basket was passed to make the traditional contribution, I was baffled by all the coins in my hand. One of the members tenderly chose the appropriate coin and gently placed it in the basket for me. Our eyes met with a loving and understanding smile. We ended the meeting in prayer, and I was invited to the clubhouse, pictured below.

Researching 12-Step Meetings in Your Destination

Before any travel, I research 12-step meeting locations. You can find them by internet search. I suggest emailing the contact person before you arrive; that way, you’ll already have a friend!

Addiction knows no barriers. It exists regardless of borders, language, and the way people live. Never be afraid of being unwelcome at a meeting because you don’t speak the language. Once you see the books, the posters, and the people, you will feel right at home. The Big Book speaks of “the language of the heart” and AA is now active in 150 countries!

For continental European region English language groups there is always a contact person who will be happy to correspond and connect you with someone in your destination. To find an international meeting list and passages of the Big Book in foreign languages, try Silkworth.

My travels have taken me to meetings in many foreign countries. Language differences have never kept me from feeling like a full participant in a 12-step meeting abroad.

I was even offered a ride back to my hotel from the dark jungle that night.

As I said my goodbyes and thanked everyone, someone put an engraved coin in my hand, a special coin for visitors. Many 12-step meetings offer coins to commemorate milestones in recovery.

Back at the hotel, I asked for a translation of the coin’s inscription. Sigue Regresando, el languaje del corazon. Keep coming back, the language of the heart.

 


Article Written by Bonnie Baker, MS, LPC, CAADC