There is an interesting Ted Talk called Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong. The basic premise of the talk is centered on an experiment with rats that shows how humans (because we are actually very similar to rats, researchers assert) need connection and will thrive with interaction, even if tempted by substances as addictive as heroin. British journalist Johann Hari talks about why 12 step programs and other treatment and recovery programs work. They work because they help to alleviate the isolation and loneliness that are inherent in addiction issues. The opposite of addiction is connection.
There is Life in Fellowship
While this talk created quite the stir in the recovery world (they could have just asked us, instead of messing with a bunch of rats), there is truth to highlight. From my own experience, I learned this to be true: in fellowship with each other, there is life. When we open ourselves to the power of community, we open ourselves up to receive a gift. When we tell each other our deep and murky secrets, when we let others into our dark muddy pools of ick, something miraculous happens: we slowly open a door to healing. And if we don’t—well, if we don’t, we can stay stuck. Or worse.
There is a mysterious, miraculous power in community.
We are the Luckiest
Laura McKowen in We are the Luckiest, a memoir about her own struggle with alcoholism, says:
One stranger who understands your experience exactly will do for you what hundreds of close friends and family who don’t understand cannot. It is the necessary palliative for the pain of stretching into change. It is the cool glass of water in hell.
The strength and beauty and “cool glasses of water” that fellowship brings, for me, has been one of the most incredible gifts of recovery. Maybe we are as simple as rats. In our desperation, we will choose community over addictive substances because somehow, somewhere inside of us we know community will keep us alive. The drugs and alcohol will not. Or maybe there is more at work? Perhaps, a higher power that guides and moves and leads us into the safe circles or online rooms or church basements. Where we need to be. Maybe part of being human is healing with a bunch of other broken, lovely folks. Maybe the opposite of addiction is community.