Misophonia and Addiction Recovery Meetings: Too Much Noise
Monday, January 25 2016 Kira Lesley
For those in addiction recovery who have misophonia, attending recovery meetings is fraught with complications. They say "meeting makers make it," but what if you spend the whole meeting obsessing over coffee slurping, cookie munching or loud breathing? Misophonia and addiction recovery meetings can be a problem (Noise Sensitivity: When The World is Too Loud).
What is Misophonia?
Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is a contested term used
to describe people for whom certain noises cause a person to react in rage, intense anxiety, and/or panic. The nature of the condition (such as whether or not it should be considered a disorder), its causes and effective treatment methods are all debated, and the term itself has only entered the mainstream consciousness in the last few years. I have been struggling with this issue since I was a child and it significantly impacts my life.
I first heard of misophonia in a 12-step program meeting. I arrived at a very crowded meeting and all the seats were taken. As I hovered in the doorway, a woman beckoned me to take her seat, while she moved across the room and sat on the floor. As soon as I sat down, the woman seated beside me began chomping on an apple. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and heard nothing but apple chewing noises until she was done. After the meeting, I thanked the woman who had given up her seat for me. She told me she had wanted to move because she saw the woman pull out the apple and wanted to get away. From there, she told me about having misophonia, a term I had never heard of. After 20 years of agony, anger, self-chastising and guilt, knowing there were other people out there like me was truly a breakthrough.
Struggling with Misophonia in Addiction Recovery Meetings
Ever since I was introduced to recovery programs' meetings, I've been concerned about how I would maintain my attendance with them. The extreme anxiety I experience because of certain sounds is actually something that drove me to drink in the first place. Everyday noises became more bearable with alcohol in my system. But drinking is no longer an option.
Meetings present so many misophonia triggers: coffee slurping, gum chewing and, sometimes, even talking and breathing. For years I white-knuckled and forced myself to sit through meetings that caused me high anxiety, even if I didn't take in anything that was shared. Recent schedule changes have meant that I mainly attend noon meetings now, and because people often bring their lunches to these meetings, I struggle especially hard in these meetings. I know I look anguished at times because of this, or like I'm on the verge of a breakdown, but I can't help it.
How Can Misophonics Attend Addiction Recovery Meetings?
I'm torn, because I want to attend meetings, but I want to get as much out of them as possible. When I am on verge of screaming or running out of the room, I'm not sure I'm getting or giving anything. That being said, I have no plans to stop attending meetings. But I do need to take steps to lessen the anxiety for myself.
Some things that help me attend recovery meetings as someone with misophonia are:
- Try to attend meetings where people are less likely to be eating (needless to say, I hate it when people pass snacks around during meetings)
- Sit in the back of the room (for some reason this helps)
- Leave the meeting if necessary, or take a break and come back
I've even worn headphones to meetings at times with a low-level white noise. I'm aware that some people might view this as rude but I think if they knew my situation they would not mind. They are welcome to take it up with me if they want.
Are you someone who struggles with misophonia and attending recovery meetings? How do you deal with it? Please continue the conversation below, I would love to learn about your experiences.