As we begin a new year, things around us seem quite chaotic — close to home and far away from home. This situation can be very triggering to people like me who wrestle with addictive tendencies. It can be especially strong if you are experiencing — for whatever reason — isolation and disconnection. I am a firm believer that addiction flourishes in isolation, while recovery flourishes in community and with support. I concur with the poet John Donne who said many years ago that no one is an island (the pronoun translation has been changed to be more inclusive). As I reflect upon this situation, I return to the need that everyone — addicted or not — needs to be supported AND to support others.
My experience for many years in a 12 Step group is both finding and experiencing support on the one hand and giving support to others on the other. I see support, then, as a two-way street that involves both giving and receiving.
If you need support, ask for support. You really can’t expect others to read your mind and heart.As I have reflected upon my experiences of support over the years, an important ingredient is that there is some degree of trust between us – however, large or small the group might be. The group could be anywhere in size from one to many. An important aspect of trust is that the things that are shared – especially those that might be somewhat shameful – are not shared with others outside of the group. There is nothing more devastating than to hear something I shared in confidence with others than to hear that repeated by someone else who is outside of the group. A rule along these lines is: What is said and shared here, stays here!
Another aspect of support that I have learned over the years is: If you need support, ask for support. You really can’t expect others to read your mind and heart. If you have needs, share these needs with the people you trust. It might also be helpful at times to share what kind of support you are needing here and now. For example, when I am sharing with you what I need, please let me finish before you begin offering suggestions.
In offering these reflections on support, I want to comment further on support being a two-way street. When I think about support, I usually think first of those who might support me in what I am trying to do. I want to suggest that there is an alternative and that is asking yourself: Whom might I support? Who is in need of a helping hand? A neighbor? A co-worker? A relative? This fits with one of my favorite Steps of the 12 Steps – Step 12. I broaden my understanding of this Step to include spreading the good news of recovery not only to other addicts but also to EVERYONE I might run into in my life. The good news we can spread in this area is that I am willing to support you, if you need support. I see this as one of the fruits of recovery as I do not see recovery being about achieving self-satisfaction; rather, it is finding ways to be of service and support to others.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection, I believe we are living in a time where the need for support is great. As I have tried to show, support is a two-way street – not only receiving support but also giving support to others. And please remember – at times in order to receive support, you need to ask for support. Lastly, I find writing articles for The Phoenix Spirit to be one way that I can offer support to others. I also find reading the issues of The Phoenix Spirit to be supportive of my journey. Thank you to The Phoenix Spirit for your support!
Mark T. Scannell is a veteran 12 Stepper who believes that communities or Villages are essential in helping people recover from our addictions. His most recent book – The Village It Takes: The Power To Affirm – explores this theme.
Last Updated on January 28, 2023