“To succeed, most people need a community of support.” – Cheryl Strayed
Many of us are working on our recovery alone or piecing it together from various programs, therapies and online resources. These tools are powerful, but they do not replace the need for actual people. Nothing equals the relief of sharing our burdens with the right audience. Saying aloud our painful truths softens the sharpest edges of our pain, fuels our desire and reinforces our attitude.
This need for other people can seem like a terrible truth. We are exhausted by people. We are disappointed by people. We are scared of and scared by people. Yes, we know they are capable of comfort, but they are also capable of inflicting terrible hurt. We are convinced we will pay a price for reaching out and we are intent, rightly so, on protecting ourselves in these most vulnerable of circumstances.
Isolation is the root of our troubles. It cannot be the answer to it.
“Women especially are social beings, who are not content with just husband and family but must have a community, a group, an exchange with others. The only answer to this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community.” –Dorothy Day
I had worked on sobriety for quite some time before I understood that I was missing the magic ingredient of other people. I did not want to trouble anyone. I did not want to be different than anyone. And I felt no personal connection to women in recovery.
I wanted to quietly change one tiny part of my life and then get on with the rest of it. So I took the isolated approach. I troubled no one; was no different than anyone; and developed no personal connections.
To my surprise, this approach just kept looping me back to the same lonely, familiar place on the couch, where nothing ever happened and nothing ever changed. And then one fateful Saturday morning I had an epiphany: Isolation was the root of my problem. It could never be a solution to it.
And so I troubled someone. I called a friend who was different and told her I might be different, too. I made a personal connection. And it changed my life.
Certitude vs. Understanding
“There are commonly two kinds of human beings: there are people who want certitude and there are people who want understanding; and these two often cannot understand one another.” – Richard Rohr
In our most fragile moments, when we finally decide to reach out and make a call for connection, we must be clear on who gets to be on the other end of our line. The key here is to avoid those who live in and insist on certitude, and find those who value understanding.
Certitude means labels, boxes and preconceived notions. Certitude gets us nowhere. It is a rabbit hole of judgment and perfection-seeking that lands us back on our couches, siloed and silent. Certitude is a woman killer.
We need understanding. We need grace. We need true companionship that is grounded in the twin pillars of big-hearted accountability and non-judgmental standards. These things are harder to find than they should be in our culture that insists on easy answers to black and white questions. Meanwhile, we are all living – and dying – in complex shades of gray.
We become the women we need
“Time makes you bolder. Even children get older. And I’m getting older, too.” – Stevie Nicks
To truly change, we must find and stay with those who see the entire spectrum. We must find and stay with people who see that we are, and that they are, messy and wonderful and terrible and brilliant. We must find and stay with people who value authenticity over “winning.”
And then we must become these people. We must become the women we need for each other, for our children and for our futures.
True change requires you to make a call for connection. Trust your instincts. It may surprise you who ends up being on the other end of the line. I called a friend, but other women call their parents, a neighbor, a divorce lawyer. These women had thought about that call for so long that, when the moment came to actually make it, it was crystal clear who they needed to dial. It was just a matter of picking up the phone.
We cannot stay silent and apart any longer. We need one another. “Be who you needed when you were younger,” Momastery tells us. We start by acknowledging who we are now.
Reach out. Make your call. We are waiting for you.
Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She lives in Virginia where she has been working on and blogging about recovery since 2013. After years of trying to do recovery alone, she discovered the beauty of connection and friendship through She Recovers in 2017.
You are right. It is the connections with others that helped me see that I wasnt alone. That everyone struggles and feels lonely and flawed.
That’s just what makes us human!
The relief that brought me changed everything. I finally allowed myself to be happy.
Finding others in recovery can be scary, but it is so worth it!
Anne! Thank you for leaving a comment. Your blog, http://Ainsobriety.wordpress.com, has been a must-read for me for years. So grateful to you and the connection/humanity/relief you offer.
Hi, I need help which I’m sure you’ve read a zillion times! What encourage me is your from Canada albeit the opposite side. I live on a little lake in NB and have search for help across Atlantic Provinces. But this area is 20+ years behind in philosophy, therapy and judgement. I am addicted to alcohol and prescription medication. I have Lupus, Fibromyalgia, chronic depression and deteriorating disc disease. I have family that could help me but they are very religious and believe in tough love and moral failure about addiction. I have been married 3 times and this one has lasted 30 years however, I quit drinking and smoking last year and my husband had a meltdown, asked for a divorce and shot a gun at me and then turned it on himself but it wouldn’t go off. We are still on the brink of divorce and in danger of loosing our home. We live in an isolated area and I have tried every avenue available to get help but our mental health system is not very effective and worst of all I’m broke. My brother did offer to fly me out to visit my youngest son in cold lake but he doesn’t really want to be involved. I desperately need help and don’t know where to turn! Reading your articles helps me know I need to change but I’m having an anxiety attack as I write this! Can you help me? Please!
Hi MaryAnn. It’s Dawn here. Thank you for reaching out – it is a brave act to do so. It sounds like you have had a very difficult time – I’m sorry for that. I too was in an abusive relationship at the end of my using – I had to leave the relationship in order to find recovery. Perhaps your brother’s offer is worth thinking about? A bit of a break/fresh view of things often helps? I don’t imagine he would have offered if he didn’t want to help?
It sounds like you are an incredibly strong woman but that you do need some in-person help. The internet is great for inspiration and ideas but in-real-life support is really important for someone in your position. I’m not sure where in New Brunswick you are, but here are some suggestions for where to reach out:
The Sophia Recovery Centre: http://sophiarecoverycentre.com/ (St. John)
Addiction and Mental Health Services:
Fredericton (506) 453-2132
Miramichi (506) 778-6111
Sussex (506) 432-2090
There are also alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous meetings in New Brunswick (and around the world).
Mary-Anne, I want you to know that you deserve a better way to live – that there is help available – and that you can find recovery and heal. It will mean reaching out beyond here – although this was an amazing start. Please reach out to someone in your life or your community who can help you. Come back and give us an update 🙂
Dawn and Erin
Love this, yes I agree we need connection, it has been the most significant change I have made in my Recovery this time and guess what it’s working. Also glad to reconnect with you. This is a beautiful peace and look forward to reading more.