A GROW Regional Weekend Testimony

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The GROW weekend had been flagged for weeks but I was very indecisive about whether or not I’d venture down. You see, I’m too uptight, too uncomfortable with new people, too uncomfortable with new places – too uncomfortable with me.

I had been parachuting in to GROW meetings for the best part of two years but I always slithered back to the comfortable anxiety and isolation of my own home. Sometimes my lonely, stunted, loveless soul would put in an appearance at a Twelve Step event – you know, a coffee, a walk, even a table quiz. I was the one in the big glass jar; the rest of the world operated at the other side of the transparent wall.

I was lazy and worthless, even before my mother bullied me with all her insecurity and negativity. However, the people at GROW sort of nudged me away from that kind of thinking. They’d listen to crap from the past, anybody’s past, but I soon got their message. Anybody could stir their own cauldron of vomit and bring lumpy bits to the surface from time to time. But GROW was more interested in where we were going from here.

One of their slogans that I half heard was ‘the bad in us can be remedied and the good in us can grow’. We can’t quite abandon the old pot but we are encouraged to see what healthy ingredients we can add from now on. They even began pointing out some of my more positive attributes, ones that I’d lost sight of beneath the guarded thick skin that I constantly nurtured and wore. I was insightful with my comments, compassionate to other people’s stories.

Another thing I got brownie points for was my courage in facing up to my various anxieties and complications. Yes, there had been days where I was terrified to leave my house to buy a paper or a carton of milk – but I went anyway.

There will still be days where I’m going to feel like that but, thanks to GROW shining light on my ability to face things, I am confident I’ll venture to the shop again and again – or at least most of the time. The shopkeeper won’t realise that my heart is like a drowning cat in a bag or that I am on the verge of tears. For all I know, the customer behind me might be feeling exactly the same. My Euro is as good as your Euro regardless of how bonkers any of us feel.

Quickly I’ll give you a bit of my back story. Whilst always having difficulty, I usually coped adequately while there was some structure in my life. The family business was doing all right. My parents lived in the family home and I had my own sanctuary nearby where I lived with my wife and three kids.

Then, in a relatively short space of time, the business had to close and my parents died. The family home was empty and we had to discard a lifetime of history into a skip before putting the house on the market. Meanwhile, my kiddies had learned where babies came from and were busily making their own. This was a joyous and natural development, but still hugely disruptive.

Internally I sort of classified myself as Mammy and Daddy’s little boy, a mere young fellow. But now, with the ‘Grandfather’ label, I couldn’t fool myself any longer. My life was no longer measured in coffee spoons in my parents’ kitchen. It is mapped out by crappy nappies and a whirlwind of toys on my living room floor.

So there; that’s my situation.

And now I feel another GROW slogan coming on. ‘GROW equates mental health with emotional maturity.’ That’s something that has rubbed off on me over the last couple of years of attending meetings. I like to think I am making progress on the list of healthy foundations of maturity – Understanding, Acceptance, Confidence, Control and Love. I know where I am weak in these areas; I also know where I am growing.

Hesitation in signing up to go on the GROW weekend was mainly rooted in my lack of confidence. I didn’t go at all last year and I almost stayed at home again this year. However, enough GROW goodness had rubbed off on me. I was capable of facing up to difficulties and I was a useful contributor to the meetings.

In fact, I was more embedded with the group than I gave myself credit for. They are my supporters and friends; I am their supporter and friend. Six of us would be attending the weekend together. We’d all be looking out for each other.

Fundamentally, there wouldn’t be a problem. We went. We were there together. We were there with about forty other GROW people. The culture was that we were all looking out for each other. Everybody was compassionately in tune with the unknown stories and frailties of each individual. I’m so glad that I went along and was part of the experience.

I felt more alive during that break than I have felt in a long time. So, the bottom line is that I have to Grow on that – and I look forward to the process.