Reaching out for help and connection didn’t come easily. Being an Adult Child, I scan new environments wondering, “Is this space safe?”; “Will I be accepted while revealing my True Self?” I asked myself these questions when I first joined ACA.
As an immigrant, it’s doubly hard to blend in and join a simple conversation. With English as my second language, everything I hear goes through a longer pathway in my brain. First, words are translated into my original language, Arabic. Then the words are assigned a literal meaning. Finally, context is added and matched with the stored interpretations, to be properly understood. To verbally reply, the process is repeated in reverse. Add to that the anxiety of proper wording, pronunciation, and grammar. Now imagine processing all the feelings and triggers that come up during an ACA meeting!
Luckily, I had experienced some recovery in my home country before moving to the US. I tolerated the discomfort of being ‘the newcomer’ in a meeting of native English speakers. That meeting made me feel welcomed and accepted. The script was reassuring. For the first time in my life, I felt understood. I related deeply to the shares and experiences. I belonged. Still, it took a while to reach out to a fellow member by phone. I rehearsed the conversation repeatedly, in my mind, before dialing his number, remembering, I needed all the help I could get.
My Higher Power guided me to start working the program. I worked with a sponsor who encouraged me to accept my imperfections and join the reader in meetings. The more I worked the program, the more my inner voice nagged, “This needs to be translated into Arabic.” For months, with this voice in my head, I envisioned how people in the Middle East would benefit. Indeed, how much easier would it have been if a program in Arabic had existed for me.
Recently, I heard of a WSO board member from Denmark, who said that her Inner Child did not speak English. Astonishing! This story brought me clarity. That nagging voice in my head was my Inner Child. He, too, did not speak English. He was required to read and reread, spacing out trying to overcome the language barrier to understand the program.
My experience is not unique. Once, after a meeting, a warmly smiling lady said, “My husband recognized your name and accent. He speaks Arabic and is new to the meeting. Is it okay if I introduce you?” I said “Sure!”, relating to his nervousness. I’ve been there. After a bit of chatting, our shared experience and common cultural background was evident. Our memorable encounter had no language barrier. Communication was easier.
When AA and NA started in Arabic years ago, no one expected that the Arabic Twelve Steps fellowships would have hundreds of thousands of members. Today they do. My dream, with the grace of a Higher Power, is to, one day, experience ACA meetings in Arabic.