There’s nothing wrong with being a bit introverted. Many addicts and alcoholics are introverts. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we never enjoy being social, or even that we lack social skills. It just means that social interactions tend to leave us a bit drained, and we occasionally like being on our own to recharge. But we can’t recover in isolation. So if we truly wish to maintain our sobriety, we’ll need to put ourselves out there. Even those who don’t connect well with AA or NA find that they need to build some sort of support network. We simply cannot stay sober without seeking fellowship in one form or another.
If you don’t quite know what we mean by fellowship, that’s okay. Those who are new to recovery will often find the sense of community they need in our programs. Our patients work with one another to support and encourage each other as they learn to remain sober together. Upon graduating from our programs, many patients enter an aftercare program. There, they learn to coexist peacefully under one roof while still maintaining sobriety in the outside world. By the time they leave, most of them should be skilled enough in social interaction that they can built a support network just about anywhere.
We’ve talked before about building a support network, so we’ll lay that matter to rest for the time being. Right now, we’d like to focus on how to build a fellowship with these individuals once you have identified them. To some, these principles of fellowship might seem intuitive. But introverts and others who don’t socialize often might want to pay close attention. Your ability to thrive within a fellowship of recovery just might depend upon your acceptance of these seven vital truths.
1. Every Person Has Intrinsic Worth
Even within the most tightly knit fellowship, you’ll usually find at least a couple of people who face each other with enmity rather than love. When we dislike someone, we’re usually quick to rationalize it. We believe ourselves to be so great at reading people that we couldn’t possibly be wrong. Clearly our instincts tell us to dislike this person for a reason. Then again, maybe we are wrong. And even if we’re right, does our personal distaste for a person give them any less value? Even if we do have good reason to steer clear of somebody, we might still be able to learn from them.
The opposite of resentment is gratitude. If we find ourselves questioning a person’s value, then we should stop and reconsider. What has this person brought to your life? Even if the most they’ve ever done for you was show you what kind of person not to be, this is still reason to be grateful that they were a part of your experiences. And even if you don’t personally gain anything from this person, somebody else might. Don’t write anybody off as worthless just because doing so confirms your own biases. Keep your eyes open, and you’ll learn to see how each and every one of us keeps the world in balance. This will also enable you to see what you bring to the table, which will make you much more comfortable in social interactions.
2. Everyone Deserves Compassion
If we accept that everyone has their place in the world, we must also accept that everyone deserves to live in it. But we aren’t saints for merely recognizing that someone who annoys us doesn’t deserve to die. In the spirit of true fellowship, we must approach everyone with compassion. Perhaps you don’t speak to a certain member of your recovery community. Maybe you find them unlikable, or maybe you like them quite a bit and find them to be intimidating for this very reason. But one day, you will see them struggling. It’s up to you to do the right thing and approach them with kindness.
Fellowship without unity is nothing. A true fellowship is a community in which every individual is treated with equity. The First Tradition of AA is that our own recovery depends upon the unity of the group. And when even one person is treated unfairly, that unity finds itself shattered. As such, we must always advocate for the fair treatment of others. And if we see someone struggling, we are responsible for helping them to stand on two feet again. Because when we find ourselves in the same situation, we’ll want our fellowship to be there for us. It’s only fair that we extend the same kindness to them.
3. Spiritual Growth Is Communal
Nobody’s perfect, and this is why we need each other. Go to any number of AA or NA meetings, and you’ll see people from all walks of life. You’ll see teenagers carrying on joyful conversations with men and women in their golden years. And you’ll observe many of these people treating each other as equals. Because even if one person has only two weeks of sobriety and the next has thirty years, they’re all in the same boat. Everyone is simply trying to learn and grow in their recovery.
Spiritual growth is a big part of recovery, and it’s something that we must figure out together. We sit in meetings and talk about our experiences, hoping that we can help others and that they’ll help us in return. We don’t really know what will ring true for us until we hear it.
Every once in a while, someone might claim to have all the answers. We might chuckle inside, but we continue to listen. Because even if they don’t have all of the answers, they might have a few. We must never give way to contempt prior to investigation. To ignore the words of a fellow sufferer is to choose the path of ignorance. We must open our ears and hear what the members of our recovery community have to offer us. If we all listen, we all grow.
4. Everyone Finds Their Own Truth
While on the pathway toward spiritual growth, we all tend to diverge at times. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nobody’s pathway looks the same. Everyone has their own uniquely personal spiritual experience in recovery, and the routes by which we get there tend to differ in subtle ways. Someone might achieve spiritual growth in a way that doesn’t work for us. That’s okay, as long as it’s working for them. Anyone who truly believes in fellowship must accept that everyone finds their own truth. We can’t find it for them, just as they can’t find it for us. Everyone must find it for themselves.
A fellowship should always encourage its members to find their own pathway to achieving a spiritual experience. There may be some guidelines, such as the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. But ultimately, our journey will be defined by who we are, not what we are told. As long as we find a fellowship that encourages us to be ourselves, we can feel confident that our support network is a good one. Sobriety should bring you freedom, not oppression. Find your own truth and live it.
5. Nobody Should Be Silenced
Our recovery community provides us many things. But perhaps more than anything, it gives us a voice. Alcoholism and addiction cause us pain that only other addicts and alcoholics can understand. And when we first enter recovery, it’s difficult to talk about this pain with our loved ones. We put them through their own pain, and the wounds are still fresh. Even if they care deeply about us and want us to be happy, telling them about our struggles might feel difficult when we know that they need to heal as well. So where else do we turn?
We turn to a fellowship in which everyone has the right to speak. Nobody is required to speak if they don’t want to. But anybody who goes to a recovery meeting with something on their chest is given the opportunity to speak their mind. Even Tradition Two of AA indicates that the group should not put all of its power into a single authority. As noted above, everyone must be treated with equity. And this means that everyone’s opinion matters, even if they are in the minority. This doesn’t just apply to the groups, either. We should always hear people out, even if we don’t agree with them. It’s the only civil thing to do, and it keeps us connected with others despite our occasional differences of opinion.
6. Everyone Has Certain Freedoms
Many of the above principles relate to the fair treatment of others. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the big picture. We might think we demonstrate these principles wonderfully, but human beings have limitations when it comes to communal thinking. You might boast a few hundred or even several thousand friends on social media. But how many do you speak to every day? How many do you even think about every month? And if we’re capable of forgetting about lifelong friends, can we really say that we wholeheartedly embody the spirit of fellowship? What happens if we try to apply these principles on a global scale?
In most cases, we’ll fall short. And that’s okay. Because, as we said above, human beings have limitations. We cannot know everybody on the planet, and we cannot carry the weight of the world’s problems on our shoulders. But even if our sense of community is limited, our principles must be unyielding. We must accept that everybody deserves the same rights and privileges as us. There may be stipulations to some of these rights, such as giving up our freedom when we commit a violent crime. But these stipulations must also be the same for everyone. We can’t pick and choose. Fellowship is not about playing favorites. It’s about being a part of something, instead of standing on the outside. This cannot be achieved without a firm sense of ethics.
7. The World Is Bigger Than Us
The principle above should help us to begin seeing outside of our own bubble. We start to see ourselves as more than just members of a recovery community. In fact, we often come to the conclusion that this was not our first true community at all. From the moment we were born, we were given free admission to a worldwide fellowship. We simply never realized it before. Drugs and alcohol severed our spiritual connection to the rest of humanity. When we stay sober and practice spiritual principles by performing service work and working the Twelve Steps, we can finally see this connection repaired.
When we begin to see the world as one giant fellowship, we feel more connected to others than ever before. No matter what you believe when it comes to religion, life is better when we embrace the idea that we were put on this Earth to be a part of it. By allowing ourselves to grow spiritually, we strengthen our ability to leave a positive mark on the world. And by growing alongside others, we strengthen them while simultaneously allowing them to strengthen us. When we embrace the principles of unity and camaraderie, everybody wins. After losing so much to drugs and alcohol, we owe it to ourselves to start winning.
For more information on how we foster a sense of community between our patients at Amethyst Recovery and Chrysalis Recovery Source, contact us today.