Finding New Connections: The Importance of Community in Recovery

People, people, people… people everywhere. We love them, we judge them, we want to be close to them, and we want solitude and respite from them. Many of us acknowledge a certain intrinsic connection to these others- our human family; our fellow members of a diverse, and often perplexing, species. We bring out similarities in each other, and differences of perspective; new ways of looking at things, and annoying old patterns that we want to blame others for. Some say, “we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are-“ a testament to the reflective quality of our external reality. Whatever our particular stance is within social settings and in our day-to-day communities, there is no denying the positive benefits of finding deep and meaningful connection with our fellows; of learning how to relate, to express, and find reciprocity, even if the only thing gleaned from a connection is the awareness of things unwanted. Many studies have shown evidence that perhaps it is not even a search for pleasurable feelings that drives the addictive neural response, but the search for intimate connections with others. Perhaps one of the major antidotes to addiction is, in fact, connection- to a higher self, and to a deep awareness that is accessed in connection to a supportive community.

In the beginning, was the unkind word

Where did disconnection stem from, what causes the obstacles to fostering a loving and nurturing community around us, and turn to unhealthy coping habits and, in many cases, extreme addiction? Science has shown that much of our unconscious programming occurs between the ages of 0 and 7. The mind is in a state of theta waves during much of this time (kind of like the state of hypnosis), and a lot of the programed responses, and automatic tendencies that we come to assimilate are filtered in from disconnected peers, parents, and authority figures in this particular time period. Lack of positive attachment, and unhealthy habitual responses that arise from negative interactions with others, can lead to isolation and shying away from connecting, and to using substances as a buffer. It becomes a very powerless position to be in- you have a talk with someone and, seemingly out of the blue, you’re hot and bothered, and fight or flight kicks in. For a lot of people this kind of internal tension happens multiple times per day, and it is tied to unconscious programming, specifically from models of unhealthy social interaction, and disconnection with loved ones from past experiences. It’s a process to find compassionate awareness to even begin to cultivate deep connections through these triggered responses. There is a beautiful juxtaposition to this in 12 step communities, where often it is heard:“ we will love you until you love yourself.” And this is a very freeing jumping off point for people to begin to find evidence that they can navigate their negative patterns and learn to gradually move out of them while still being loved by a community who have also experienced this process: learning how to connect with other humans in healthy ways.

It Takes a Village

Just as those beginning recovery are finding new connections within, to new ways of seeing themselves and the world, it is equally important to reinforce new connections in community. Connections to those on a similar path help to: -give a sense of purpose -offer belonging in a fragmented society -provide support for new opportunities -and raise vibration through energetic osmosis These new connections are also building a fresh platform for positive responses to life in general, so that lasting habits of authentic expression can be practiced in a safe environment, with like-minded individuals. (And eventually can be practiced with opposing views and in greater diversity of un-like minded individuals.) From the foundation upon which new ways of relating to the world, clean and sober, are laid, new healthy activities can be participated in with greater presence. So much of the numbing to connection that is activated in active addiction is about fear- fear to see the self, to see patterns of destructive thinking, fear that has grown into irrational ideas about how certain pieces of truth will cause the destruction and annihilation of the individual, when it is the opposite that is true: to deny or push away an aspect of one’s experience is the cause of the diminishing of human consciousness to a point of death and destruction. When we can find courage to exist in a community; finding compassion for unwanted aspects, clashing opinions, and reflections of less-than-ideal parts of ourselves, we can begin to find peace within ourselves in an unconditional way.

Unconditional Love

There’s a misconception in communities sometimes that unconditional love means to see what you don’t like in someone and love someone while looking at that unwanted attribute. While this may encapsulate a satisfactory practice for some, it also might be helpful to look at it like this: When we are able to continually notice and accept what is arising within our individual self, and externally in others (See our blog post on acceptance here) we begin to tap into a love that is not swayed by an acknowledgement of someone’s else’s perceived flaws (which can be looked at as a flaw in our own perception, anyway.) So we continue to accept and relate, and acknowledge when we don’t relate and follow the path of our evolving self-healing. Before long, there is love and abundance of positive energy that brings out the best in ourselves and those around us, a good majority of the time. So, we get to choose, through the power of awareness, a loving and empowered response, not based so much on what another is receiving, but because that is the energy we wish to embody; because that is the kindness our being has craved through all the trauma and all the times we let ourselves be overtaken by grief, rage or any sort of emotional overwhelm. So we choose a better feeling response for ourselves, not because we are looking at someone and trying to see beyond their seeming faults but because we know within that we are the fullest parts of ourselves- that abundant compassionate energy that consistently flows and keeps the heart beating, and to embody anything less would be less authentic. This is another way to look at unconditional love- it might seem selfish, but sometimes it is in selfish attention to who we want to be that allows the truest connection within the community to be established, regardless of what’s going on externally. Community allows a space for this unconditional authentic self to be practiced, over and over, through thick and thin, so that consistency leads to a solid eternal now, where we begin to create a new reality, rather than face an old one.

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