Recovery and Community Isolation Isn’t The Answer

If you have taken the plunge into your recovery from addiction, whatever your addiction may be, you are certainly aware of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,[1] written by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S., who founded Alcoholics Anonymous.  The Twelve Steps embody the spirit, philosophy and foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous.  They are its guiding principles and method for recovery.  Moreover, they have been adapted and adopted for use by other self-help organizations such as Marijuana Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and a host of others.

One of the Steps, Step Five, states “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  What does this mean?  What does this do?

First we must look at the social and behavioral pattern of an alcoholic.  The pattern was described, best, by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S.:

Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness. Even before our drinking got bad and people began to 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 that mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand.[2]

In other words, alcoholics, as well as other addicts, are lonely, withdrawn, separated, or isolated.

The first four Steps in recovery are (1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable, (2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, (3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him, and (4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  All of these lead to Step Five and its implicit direction to engage in fellowship.

You’ve been an addict of some sort.  Whether your isolation was a cause of your addiction or your addiction was a cause of your isolation, you have set yourself apart from relationships with anyone or anything except the substance or activity to which you were addicted.  The Steps, in their entirety, are the basis for a reconfiguration of your life, which includes healthy relationships.  Maybe you’ve had one bad relationship, or maybe you’ve never had a good relationship, or maybe you’ve been in one-sided relationships.  Whichever it is, the Twelve Steps teach a healthy way to recover.

You go to meetings, sometimes more than once a day.  You encounter people just like you.  They’ve been where you are, done what you’ve done, and are learning to live in sobriety.  Understandably, you will feel reluctant to go in.  But you must.  The people in those meetings have struggled, just as you have.  They’ve battled and are battling addiction, just as you are.  They will befriend you.  People may offer you their contact information so you can reach out to them, compare experiences, and share in the process of recovery.  They will ask you for your contact information as well.  They are willing to help you, if for no other reason, helping you helps them.  In one of those meetings you will encounter a person who you will choose to become your sponsor, who will help you handle your new life.  You will no longer be alone.

Back to the meaning and function of Step Five:  “Admitted… to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  This is something you have to do in order to complete your Twelve Step program.  You have to relate to somebody else.  If you can relate to one person, you will find it easier to relate to more people.  Recovery means you cannot be alone.  “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.”[3]   Ridding yourself of isolation is the key to your recovery.

You cannot do it alone or in a vacuum.  Nor should you try.  Step Five is the answer.  Go to a meeting.

[1] Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (New York, N.Y.: The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. and Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing (now known as Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.), 1952, 1953, 1981).

[2] Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 57.

[3] Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 89