The Fellowship You Crave: Why Having a “We” is Important
There is often talk in meetings about the distinction between the fellowship and the program. Some will deride the fellowship as if it is an afterthought and say things like, “I don’t come to meetings to make friends. I come here to get my spiritual medicine.” While they have a valid point to a certain degree, I believe drawing this distinction and underestimating the fellowship results in not receiving the entirety of the gifts that a 12-step program has to offer.
One of the primary facets of this program is fellowship and our literature points directly to the need to create a fellowship of people, not because we should, but because it is something that we innately crave. Craving fellowship may on the surface sound like some codependent idea, but it is not. It is part of being human. The need to connect, and what’s more, to connect to peers with a shared experience, so that we may learn and validate our own experiences. It is vital that you build a sober social support system during early sobriety.
This is not to say that the fellowship is more important than the actual program of action that is designed in a 12-step program but the two work in tandem with each other, neither more important than the other. Both must present, I believe, in order for recovery to occur, and this is not only backed by my own experience, but by the steps themselves.
The First Step says, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” We implies more than one and this “We” that is written about in the first step is your fellows in 12-step programs. This is important for two reasons. First, it shows solidarity between members of the program, a sort of collective conclusion necessary for recovery.
Second, it shows that while your admission of powerlessness must be a conclusion that you arrive at, it also shows that you cannot truly recover by yourself but need a “We” in order to move forward. This need for a “We” mirrors my own experience in this program and without the fellowship that I developed early on the transition into sobriety would have been more difficult than it was for me.
The treatment center that I went to had a house where we stayed at night. Usually about 6 people would stay in each house separated by gender. During the day we would be bused to the center and then at night we'd come back to the houses where we were allowed to cook and hang out. For so many years I had been isolated from people. This was entirely self-imposed, but no one, not even my family, knew what was going on inside of me. Beginning to break away from this isolation and share with others my thoughts was an extremely important and cathartic experience.
Besides just creating a fellowship within my treatment center I also started to create a fellowship with people who had more time than me, with people who were more established in the program already. This was equally as important as creating a fellowship with people who were currently in similar situation with me. After I left treatment I would hang out with my sponsor and the people that my sponsor introduced me to.
These were invaluable contacts because many of them had experienced what I was currently experiencing and they were able to help guide me through the trials and tribulations that came with early sobriety. It also helped me feel more at home because when I would go to meetings I would know some people that were there and not feel completely awkward and socially inept.
The longer that I have stayed sober the importance of having a fellowship has become more apparent. It is interesting because as difficulties the first part of my sobriety was, it paled in comparison to the struggles that would come later on. These struggles were where the importance of my “We "really started to show. Having friends that I could call at any time of the day or night and tell anything to, even my most embarrassing thoughts, kept me sane when life became overwhelming.
There were many occasions where my friends carried me and if I had to go through some of the things I have experienced alone I do not know what would have happened. The great thing about this is that it is a two-way street and there were many times that I myself had to carry my friends.
This reciprocal vulnerability and sharing of bad times brought us closer and also furthered my ability to be completely open and honest with other people. This is not always an easy task, because rooted deep within in me is a fear of rejection. Luckily, cultivating my fellowship through these means has taught me a great deal about what it is like to receive and give unconditional love, and has helped to stamp out some of the residual fear of rejection that I still carry.
On a lighter note, cultivating a fellowship is also important because of the fun that you will be able to have with sober, like-minded individuals. A fear that many people who are newly sober have is, what will they do for fun. No matter how many times you tell them that they will have more fun in sobriety then they ever had drinking and drugging, they will not necessarily believe you until they experience it.
I have done more fun things since I’ve been sober than I ever did while I was drinking. Besides this, just going out to eat with my closest friends and laughing about nothing and everything usually results in some of my most cherished memories. Life and sobriety can get heavy sometimes, so having a fellowship allows for the levity necessary to offset this.
Bill Wilson once wrote, “We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty.” He was spot on when saying this and I personally would not give you up the fellowship that I have created in Alcoholics Anonymous for anything in the world.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.