Tonight I am getting together with my friends – my friends being a dozen or so schizophrenics from the Denver, Colorado area. We get together every Monday night from 7:00 to 8:00pm to share our experiences, strength and hope with one another. In other words, to have an SA group.
We are like family–extended family. We have been meeting like this for 8 ½ years, at least, some of us. We have celebrated birthdays together, deaths of parents, triumphs in life, losses, and the joys in overcoming obstacles that only schizophrenics can truly appreciate.
We are the forgotten minority–the last group of people in the world to experience stigma. Cancer, divorce, gay marriage, and even AIDS are now more accepted. But say the word “schizophrenia,” and people still wince. Shootings come to mind, violent acts of the tiny percentage of us who are off our meds. Most schizophrenics are far more likely to harm themselves than anyone else.
What is apparent in our group is that we schizophrenics have enormous talent! I am a frustrated concert pianist, a writer of six books. P. is a wonderful portrait artist. L. is also an extremely talented artist, as well as being a lawyer. G. sings like an angel, even a capella. C. plays a mean Chopin Prelude and has a phenomenal memory for Bach. T. teaches art, even to us. M. does crochet, unusual for a guy! M. writes stories. Etc. Etc.
In our meetings, we have the serious business of SA. We have a structured meeting. First we have a minute of silence, then an affirmation from the affirmation book. Then some varied readings from the Blue Book – we vary them from week to week. Then we turn to the 6 Steps and read them. Then we go around the circle, and each person takes a step that applies to his or her day or week, and we discuss them. Then, it is time for the weekly check in. Everyone comments on how the week went, problems with symptoms, problems with medications, victories, outings, work related events, etc. During the check-in, we make sure that everyone is doing OK, and if they aren’t, we deal with it as a group. Are they on their meds? Are the meds not working? Do they need an emergency appointment with their doctor? Do they need to go to the hospital? Do they need a ride to the hospital? Etc.
In SA meetings, as opposed to 12-Step meetings, we encourage crosstalk, feedback, and advice giving. It is a more relaxed and informal meeting than say, AA. That is the charm of SA.
Tonight we had two new members, younger members, ages 19 and 20. They are the future of SA. They promised to come back, and I think they will. They seemed to enjoy the meeting, even though the rest of us are older. We made them feel welcome.
SA is a social educational group. In our group, we have fun! There are talent nights, in which each person brings a creative offering. We have potlucks and pizza nights. We have art nights, and an annual swap meet in which members clean out their closets and bring their “trash” and put it on the boardroom table, then – on the count of three – the members pick out what they want from the table. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It is true. We have a coffee group on Saturdays, and a walking group when the weather is nice. We go to concerts together, and museums and movies. We socialize with each other. We ARE like a family, although new family members are always welcome.
Now I want you to hear what some of the members wrote tonight about what the group means to them:
“Being in SA for the past 8 years has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I have made many good friends who accept me in spite of my illness. I feel a true sense of camaraderie and closeness which I did not experience in the 12-step groups I have attended. I am truly grateful that SA has come into my life.” R.
“SA shows me that I am not alone in dealing with my mental illness and it helps break down the stigma of mental illness. SA gives me inspiration to “get over” my mental illness and gives me examples to shoot for.” S.
“This group meeting helps me realize that I have a mental illness. It also keeps me connected.” B.
“SA keeps tabs on us, and if you’re falling through the cracks, they tell you to talk to your doctor, and the buck stops here and you check with your doctor.” G.
“SA means to me that I am not alone and there are people out in the community who understand what I go through.” C.
“SA has provided me with a wonderful circle of friends. Without them, I don’t know what I’d do – except feel very alone. I’d like to keep these friends for life. They keep me sane – and alive!” C.
“SA keeps me out of the hospital. We’re a small group, and I get enough attention about my illness.” M.
“SA provides me with a social network and support.” G.
“SA is a place where I can set goals, and receive emotional support.” C.
Why SA??? Because it works! Please don’t change a thing…. MW