Fellowship: What It Is And Why You Need It To Recover From Addiction
Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness. Even before our drinking got bad and people cut us off, nearly all of us suffered the feeling that we didn’t quite belong. Either we were shy, and dared not draw near others. Or we were noisy good fellows constantly craving attention and companionship, but rarely getting it. There was always this mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand.” (A.A. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 57)
The Isolation Of The Addict
Isolation and addiction go hand in hand. Even if we were out every night and closing down the bars, surrounded by hordes of people, we felt somehow lonely. It wasn’t the presence of people we lacked, but relationship. In addiction we were confused about who we were and afraid to know our true selves. We used our addictions to hide from ourselves and to try to be the people we thought we wanted to be. Yet we suspected we didn’t belong and were quite certain that if people knew who we really were, they’d reject us. The loneliness was profound.
Fellowship: The Antidote To Isolation
The 12-Step Program is designed to begin bringing us out of isolation. That doesn’t mean simply throwing us in a room with a bunch of other drunks and junkies, it means helping us to know ourselves in ways we never had. As we work the Steps we learn to see ourselves honestly and we begin cultivating a real relationship with that self. We grow in humility and we lose our fear of rejection. Through the working of the Steps we are cleaning up the wreckage of the past and seeking to live well in the present by practicing the program principles in all of our affairs.
Meeting Fellowship Encourages Sobriety
Our isolation perpetuated our addiction. To recover, we do our part to begin breaking the secrecy that allowed our addiction to control our lives. The meeting is the place where we start this process. Knowing we are among those who have walked similar paths, we begin to feel comfortable opening up and being real. The meeting is a safe place where we won’t be judged or ostracized. There we find a system of support—people who are personally invested in our sobriety and wellbeing.
Cultivating Fellowship For Recovery
We can, of course, go through the motions without ever going deeper than surface level with our program fellows. But this only jeopardizes sobriety. We all need time to acclimate to the 12-Step life and we may not be ready to have complete strangers prying into our business, but we have to be moving in the direction of relationship. How?
By being intentional. The program recommends picking up the phone and talking with other members—ideally three a day. These don’t have to be profound conversations, but one day they will be. It’s an exercise in breaking down isolation and overcoming the fear of people. We don’t show up to the meeting late or duck out early. We force ourselves to interact. We take a sponsor and set up a schedule of regular interaction. We meet with other fellows in coffee shops to talk about the program. We serve. And we remember that coming out of isolation is one of the best secrets to lasting sobriety.
Life takes on new meaning in A.A. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 89)
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