The Therapeutic Effect

“The therapeutic effect of one addict helping another is without parallel”
-Basic Text, Page 68
The therapeutic effect of one addict helping another IS without parallel, however this type of service towards one another should not ONLY be extended in times of sheer desperation.  Too many recovering addicts, it seems, forget the principles of fellowship, and lifting one another up.  Extending a hand to those in the same boat as us should be a principle that we practice in all of our affairs, as we are all faced with similar struggles trying to swim against the current in society.  For the most part, we re-enter society into “normal life” far behind the progress of our non-using peers.  We have emotional, mental and even physical wounds, criminal records, trust to earn back, destroyed families, reputations and credit, and a general sense of low self-esteem.  We need each other for support and general help and guidance.  Next to spiritual growth, this is one of the biggest benefits of the rooms of twelve step programs.  However, I find that this type of fellowship and support is lacking severely in my local rooms of Narcotics Anonymous.
Unfortunately, I have to draw the comparison between these types of recovering addicts and crabs in a bucket.  The mentality seems to mimic that crab like behavior.  We all run the risk of being steamed, and yet instead of lifting and boosting each other out towards freedom and success, everyone is pulling each other back in and stepping on one another.  The mentality in the rooms that I see more often than not lately is a race to financial success and stardom.  Everybody wants to be a social media supermodel, rapper, internet sensation, or recovery spokesperson before they’ve even amassed any significant amount of clean time, a lot of times before they’ve even left their recovery housing.  We want the world and we want it now.  Dreams are good and can help drive our sobriety, but dreams can also ruin it when we put too much stock in them and not enough work in ourselves.
This same mentality applies to a lot of those who amass any significant amount of clean time and get accomplishments in their lives.  They lose humility and turn their backs on those who were where they once were.  It seems like the only times that anyone wants to go out of their way to help anyone is after they’ve fallen or are consumed in a huge crisis.  It shouldn’t be that way.  We should be lifting each other up along the way.  That is the core model of this recovery program.  As one climbs higher, we all rise.  I’m by no means perfect, but I try my best to reply to the hundreds of messages that I get weekly.  I always do my best to offer advise, help, cross promote, share, etc. within reason.  Yet I’ve reached out to many so called “recovery gurus”, and “figures” in this community, some who I was even friends with before their fame, and gotten the cold shoulder.  These same people were actually much more willing to help in their active addiction than they are now.  It shouldn’t be like that, and it makes me sad regarding this state of affairs not for myself but because of the damage that it does to the program.  Many people who have gained significant amounts of clean time have crossed over to the other fellowship Alcoholics Anonymous for greater growth and self fulfillment.
This is a phenomenon that I have witnessed greatly in my home-state.  The amount of addicts with serious clean time or even some in early recovery that are switching fellowships is very high.  The usual excuse is that “people in NA aren’t serious enough” or “NA is too clique-y” or “%90 of the meetings are people in recovery houses” or “people in the meetings are taking subs”.  Some of these may be overall valid generalizations, and good points, but as people with significant amounts of clean time we are called to address those issues rather than run from them. We should be confronting any issues that we see and helping to save those that come behind us rather than acting like crabs in a bucket and only caring about our own self preservation. It is through helping the newcomers that we help ourselves both spiritually and emotionally. We grow by helping others, and we also enforce our own sobriety by doing so. This is another core premise of the twelve step programs.
Sure the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous may have a lot of older members with a lot more clean time, but what happens to Narcotics Anonymous when everyone serious about recovery and with a bit of clean time bails on it?  Then there’s nothing left in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous except for newcomers, which is a recipe for disaster.  We cannot entirely bail on one program because we don’t like what its becoming, instead we should be steering it back on the right track.  There are way too many lives at stake.  I’m guilty of it too.  I don’t make it to meetings nearly as much as I’d like to because of juggling careers, and engagements outside of the rooms.  However, I do make myself available for correspondence and  advice whenever possible.
This is just a generalized observation, of course not every person or every meeting falls into this category.  There are good and bad in everything, and I know that when I point fingers there are three more pointing back at me, and I try to stay aware of that.  I just want to encourage those of you with clean time, with success and with growth to not get too arrogant, to not be ruled by ego, and to help lift those up that come behind you.  I urge you to not run from the very lives that we’re called to save.  That we remain forever grateful, strong and wise, and that we are courageous to change the things that we can, and always accept those that we cannot.