I spent a good portion of my life isolated. Consistent feelings of shame and guilt underpinned my thoughts, my actions, and informed most of the relationships I had left. The disease of addiction became a vicious cycle, endlessly attempting to drown those “negative” emotions or feelings I had about myself while constantly strengthening and engraining them even further in the same process. “Living” was a miserably insufferable experience alone. Looking back from where I stand today, I can see how my own diseased mind worked against me, purposefully keeping me in the dark, isolated, with no real ability to reach out, be a part of, and be a friend to others. So often in this life I feel like we take people for granted; we anticipate or expect things to remain as they are in this very moment when the reality is, of course, much different. Our physical forms here are temporary. Things and people are always changing. Cherishing, nurturing, and remaining authentic in our relationships on a day-to-day basis is a vital need in the current world we now find ourselves living in, and one of the most important actions we can take is giving back.
Recovery, whether from addiction or mental health issues is founded upon community. It’s principles, its major facets are constructed around an individual’s ability to lean on others, to be a part of something greater than themselves alone. Connection. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this life, it’s that attempting to ride solo through your own B.S will almost always result in failure. I have historically, relentlessly tried to out-think my problems and it has often left me the worse for wear. My own personal recovery has resolutely depended on the action of reaching out to others, expressing what it is that I’m going through, and being open to suggestion and advice. I have always believed that God has spoken through others in my life; nowhere has this been truer than when people made themselves available to me. They put aside whatever it was they had happening during those moments to take my call, to meet with me, or to include me. They placed themselves in a position through their own work in recovery, their own trust in God, to be a tool for Him in my journey.
That, to me, is why 12-step, support groups, and community work are so important. They perpetuate a cycle of selflessness in a culture of self-centeredness. By reaching out and accepting the help we need, we are empowered to place ourselves in a position of spiritual strength, having walked through the darkness guided by the light of our friends. We are enabled to be that person for the next person on his or her own journey.
By taking these experiences I’ve had in my recovery with others, I try to apply the same principles to my friendships. I try to appreciate people. I try to appreciate the lengths in which others have gone to help me, to truly internalize and recognize the importance of remaining available. Of reminding someone how much you care about them. Of truly holding space with a person who is struggling. Of remembering how lonely and isolated I’ve felt at various points in my life and acknowledging the fact that these are universal issues, felt by all. My mind likes to make me think that myself and, by extension, my thoughts are the only things that exist tangibly at times. I can get so wrapped up in my head that I easily forget how incredible the gift of life is. The gift that was so freely given to me by God through the action of determined individuals around me. By staying connected with my brothers and sisters, by holding them in loving kindness, regardless of circumstance, the best I can, I am reminded of how blessed I truly am.
That is my challenge to you today. If you’ve found yourself wrapped up with personal anxiety, stress, issues at home, work, pandemic panic, political division (Lord knows we have no shortage of things happening these days), I’d ask yourself when the last time was you checked on your neighbor. I’d encourage you to examine all the ways you’ve been lifted up by your friends in hard times and good times as well. I’d take a close look at how much they truly mean to you, and how you can authentically express that to them. How God has used people over the years to help you see the light in times of trouble. And how you can be a true friend to anyone you have the privilege of coming across on this beautiful journey of life. Keep the spirit of friendship close to your heart. Keep God’s cycle of loving kindness refreshed in the world around you, and the feeling of being alone, will be one you’ll never know.
Sean – In Recovery
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org