Addiction and Recovery Part 2: The Healing Power of Community

Addiction and Recovery Part 2: The Healing Power of Community by Jay FeldIn addiction one’s life becomes narrowed, controlled and eventually (if not treated) destroyed by the compulsive pursuit of a sensation, behavior or relationship. It is characterized by:

  • Tolerance (always needing more)
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Self-deception
  • Loss of willpower
  • Distortion of attention

Addiction is difficult, and often impossible, to battle alone, which makes the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob so compelling.

Bill Wilson was a struggling New York businessman newly recovered from compulsive drinking. On a business trip to Akron, Ohio in May 1935, he felt himself fighting a mighty urge to soothe his anxiety about a failed business deal with alcohol. Instead, he made a decision to find another alcoholic in Akron who was worse off than he was (by calling churches and asking, “Do you know of any alcoholics I can talk with?”), and was introduced to an active alcoholic named Dr. Bob Smith. Bill told Dr. Bob about how his recent spiritual experience was helping him maintain his sobriety. In the process of sharing his story with Dr. Bob, Bill’s own compulsion to drink fell away, and Dr. Bob began a journey that culminated in his receiving the gift of sobriety, and Alcoholics Anonymous was born. These men began to carry the message of recovery from addiction to others who were suffering as they had.

These are some of the characteristics of the fellowship of recovering addicts that grew up around them, and that helped them heal, grow and begin to serve others:

Commonality and hope

Newcomers to the group realized that “these people are just like me, and maybe if it works for them, it will work for me.” They realized that they were not alone in their experience.

Feelings of “home,” love, warmth, safety, acceptance

The group provided an environment in which they could drop their self-protective mechanisms. It provided a place where they could feel “naked and unashamed” emotionally, as they bared their souls to one another without fear of criticism or ridicule.

Teaching and learning

As the members with longer sobriety shared their experience, strength and hope with the newcomers, these newcomers began to unlearn their old unhealthy ways of thinking and began to learn new, healthier ways of living.

Providing a mirror

As they continued relating to one another, their character defects came to the fore; but as they resolved to work out their issues together, their thinking, feeling and behavior changed. Their recovery from addiction began to morph into emotional sobriety.

Doing good

They learned that by reaching out to those who were still “sick and suffering,” they could break free from self-centeredness and isolation. They discovered that, in order to keep their sobriety, they had to give it away.

All these characteristics of a healing fellowship are explored and encouraged in the course of therapy, and therapy is often a doorway to other necessary avenues of help in overcoming life-controlling problems.

Please reach out if you would like to learn more about how to heal, learn, grow and ‘pass it on’ in the context of a healing community.

Jay R. Feld HeadshotDr. Jay R. Feld
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
(917) 572-4068

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