Last night, basketball fans were treated to Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Prior to the game, many analysts had noted that Cleveland might have a shot at stealing the game from Golden State if LeBron James received some much-needed support from his teammates. It was believed that this could happen because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were both on the court, whereas last year’s series saw LeBron forced to carry the team almost entirely by himself. But last night, he was constantly in the paint alone, and neither Irving nor Love did much to alleviate the situation. The teamwork that Cavaliers fans expected was not wholly absent, but it was not fully present, either.
On the other hand, the Warriors demonstrated a level of teamwork for which the team has often been known. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two of the team’s best shooters, combined for less points than other players who make far less headlines. Harrison Barnes, who many sportscasters had not even mentioned in their pregame analysis, became the star of the team. But he didn’t do it alone. Curry, despite his incredible prowess, knew when to let the ball go. He knew when his teammates had the advantage. The Warriors were a well-oiled machine, largely because of the simple fact that they understood the meaning of teamwork.
Recovery is not unlike an NBA series. We cannot be out there on the court alone. We can’t be so dedicated to our dreams of becoming MVP that we forget about the other players in the arena. It isn’t fair to them, it isn’t fair to our supporters, and it likely won’t work out in our favor. Below, we’ll talk a bit about the ways in which teamwork plays a role in our sobriety. As you’re reading, don’t get too sucked into the basketball metaphor. Remember, recovery is not a competitive sport. We need all the help we can get.
Teamwork Strengthens Both Team and Player
We’ve actually talked a lot about teamwork in the past, although never quite in those words. We have noted that isolation leads to relapse, and that we need to have a strong support network (and actually use it) if we wish to ensure our sobriety. Prior articles have covered everything from Tradition One to AA’s Declaration of Unity, both of which note that our personal recovery is dependent upon the fellowship. When we learn how to rely on others and ask for help rather than going it alone, it becomes much easier to face any hardships that life may throw at us while still remaining sober.
More than that, we are also able to strengthen our recovery by helping others. It is often recommended that recovering addicts and alcoholics take on some sort of service commitment. Much like any other form of teamwork, service work allows us to help others while also helping ourselves. Conversely, those who perform service work to our benefit will often find that it strengthens their sobriety in turn. This is seen as one of the great paradoxes of recovery—that we must give it away in order to keep it. Just as our sponsors are able to achieve this with us, so can we achieve this with others.
Looking past the team and the players, our earlier basketball analogy also mentioned fans and supporters. That applies to recovery as well. We have family and friends who rely on us, who want us to be happy and safe. They will have a lot more trust in our ability to stay sober when they see that we have become surrounded by caring and loving people with whom we are able to stand together so that none of us may face our inner demons alone. In the recently released Captain America: Civil War, we see the Avengers become fractured as the world loses faith in them. In turn, many of the heroes begin losing faith in themselves. We won’t spoil the entire ending of the film if you haven’t seen it, but the moral of the story is that nobody wins. One side wins the fight, but there are no true winners in a civil war. Likewise, the same teamwork we demonstrate with our teammates in recovery must be extended to our friends and families as well, or else everyone will lose in the end.
This is why we must keep our character defects in check. We cannot become stubborn and selfish to the point that our allies become our enemies. We need to practice willingness and humility when interacting with our fellows. If we cannot learn how to live peacefully with those who care about us, then there is almost no point in staying sober in the first place.
You Never Know Which Teammates Will Shine
Personalities have a tendency to clash. Just because we respect the need for unity and fellowship does not always mean that we will get along with every single person we meet in recovery. Some people might be very aggressive in their beliefs, proclaiming that no one who doesn’t share their spiritual views can stay sober. Others might make personal attacks against us. And while it doesn’t necessarily happen too often, we may encounter somebody we know outside of recovery who either purposefully or inadvertently threatens our anonymity in a way that we may not deem forgivable.
Bear this in mind—just because such individuals have forsaken the notion of teamwork in sobriety does not mean that they are any less a part of the team than we are. We may write off anything they have to say. We may zone out during a person’s share in AA or NA simply because we do not like the person. Or perhaps they recently relapsed, and we feel that this discredits the notion that their experiences may apply to us. But just because we have trouble respecting a person does not make it acceptable to ignore their experience with the disease.
Again, most analysts had not considered that Harrison Barnes would be so dominating in last night’s game. Nonetheless, his contributions were vital to the team’s success. In similar fashion, those who we may overlook or even dislike entirely have the potential to benefit our sobriety if we simply keep our ears and our minds open. You never know who might say something that pertains to issues with which you have been struggling in your own recovery. Someone with only five days sober might be able to influence a person who has been sober for years, simply because they enabled that old-timer to hold up a mirror and look more closely at their own issues.
Listening is a key aspect of teamwork. If we harbor too many resentments against our fellows, we may become deaf to their potential wisdom. This lesson may not come as easily for some of us as it will for others, but we must do our best to remember it. You may attend a meeting on the worst day of your life, only to have your spirits lifted by someone who you had never previously given a second thought. Don’t hold yourself back from recovery out of spite or petty judgment. You will only be hurting yourself.
Learning to Practice Teamwork at Amethyst
Amethyst Recovery is a treatment center that values teamwork quite highly. Not only do we employ a staff of wonderful people who are able to rely upon each other’s wisdom when devising the best way of treating a patient, but we also encourage the patients themselves to practice teamwork whenever possible. When surrounded by others who are trying to recover from their addictions, there is simply no need to act as if you are in this alone.
There are many ways in which we encourage teamwork among our patients, although two stand out above the rest. One is the use of group therapy. This is common in many treatment centers, as it embodies many of the benefits of teamwork that we have described above. Patients are able to offer fresh and objective outlooks on one another’s experiences, and many will find that they are able to help themselves in this fashion as well. It is truly amazing, the manner in which our reactions to another person’s stories provide insights into our own minds.
The second way in which we encourage teamwork is a little less common. Every weekend, we take our patients on therapeutic excursions. Due to our location on the Treasure Coast, many of these outings are water-based: kayaking, deep-sea fishing, etc. But we also participate in equine therapy and other activities, so as to vary these outings as much as possible. This allows our patients to get to know one another outside of treatment, and many of our patients are able to form bonds with one another that will last long after they have graduated from our programs. This is especially helpful for those who plan to enter our sober living facilities when they are done with treatment, as they will be going in with a support network already in place.
Perhaps there are those who can remain sober without experiencing the benefits of teamwork, but they are far less common than those who stay sober through the power of fellowship. If we wish to attain long-term sobriety, we must put our egos aside and practice teamwork wherever possible. There’s an admittedly corny saying that isn’t used too often, but we’re going to go ahead and use it here: “It’s not recover-I, it’s recover-we.” For more information on our recover-we practices, contact us today.