By Ken Wells - 03/02/2021


Series Two: Blog Four

Everybody needs a place to call home–a place to feel safe and to feel they belong. Old war veterans seek this experience at the V.F.W. Some golf cronies pursue it at the country club. Ball players who retire from their sport reminisce about the camaraderie of belonging with guys in a locker room or the dugout. Folks who retire reflect on a rolodex of memories about relationships with colleagues they spent so much time with. What they miss the most is the experience of belonging. Some people look to belong through church attendance. My parents sought the experience there. For me it was hell. First it was boring and then torture, literally. However, when I think back to my childhood days about church there are experiences that I miss in the midst of the boredom and the abuse. I miss belonging to a cottage prayer meeting. Now, mind you, I could go the rest of my life without the forced kneeling and listening to all those old people praying out loud all at once. I mean how crazy was that!  Yet, there were a couple of other child prisoners, my brother Steve and William Campbell, who like me would position themselves next to the kitchen where an assortment of pies sat waiting to be devoured by the faithful. We usually got there first. My favorite then and now was banana cream. Second choice was coconut cream. Those were made by Sister Bertch and Sister Boggs. We always had to refer to folks at church as brother and sister. I grew up never knowing their first name. I got used to that but never to being last in line for pie at a cottage prayer meeting. That meant you had to settle for Sister Sullivan’s raisin pie. I hate raisin pie. Last in line would be a punishment meted out by my parents when I got caught playing with baseball cards or whatever during the prayer time.  Despite all that, I do recall the experience of belonging with other kids who had to put up with all the nonsense to get a good piece of pie.

Addicts look for belonging too. Alcoholics find belonging at a favorite taproom. The sitcom Cheers describes the connection and sense of belonging that many experience at a favorite watering hole. For alcoholics it can go downhill from there pretty fast. For some, it can end in a dive with their preferred sauce or in an isolated lonely room embracing their choice of booze. Addicts find security in their drug of choice, even though fleeting. Though lonely and hanging out in the dangerous unpredictability of a crack house, addicts can feel like they belong as long as they can embrace their drug of choice.

Recovering addicts find the warmth of belonging in a 12-step meeting. Before connecting to a large speakers’ meeting, most addicts feel the warm embrace of belonging with another addict who shared their story of being out of control and were encircled by a few others with unconditional acceptance even when they shared their darkest moment of shame and unmanageability. It’s the magic of acceptance that made the belonging stick. This doesn’t always happen automatically. Yet those who experience belonging at a 12-step meeting never forget it.

Human beings are community creatures.  Even nomads seek a place of security and safety. We need a place to call home. For me, like many, growing up at home was unsafe. One of the greatest challenges in early recovery for me was to establish a place of belonging. In recovery, a sense of belonging provides grounding, predictability, acceptance, understanding, and a nest for identification.

Once the need for belonging is met in a 12-step community, an addict can begin to explore the benefits that are found in a community. The following are key benefits that come from belonging to community:

1. A place to create inner stillness and cultivate patience.

We cultivate and mature inner stillness within the context of community. A 12-step community becomes a place for addicts to rest from the chaos that is created by addictive behavior. Inner stillness is fostered by finding a place to gather and connect. The byproduct of fellowship can be the fostering of inner stillness. Before you connect deeply with your own inner stillness, it helps to fill in the emptiness with authentic genuine care and interaction with others in a community.  As community develops within, you create the necessary grounding to begin cultivating within your heart your own inner stillness. This becomes the foundation for spirituality. This inner stillness is much needed for the cultivation of patience, which is a basic fundamental for long-term recovery.  Inner stillness provides a space within to listen to the divine voice of spirit and to make the god within you visible. A sense of belonging provides the sanctuary to cultivate patience and to explore inner stillness.

2. A place to curate creativity and imagination.

Creativity is a rumbling within that inner stillness into which an addict in recovery can tap.  This creativity is best cultivated in an environment where there is a sense of belonging. In the beginnings of recovery, addicts need to be told what to do, where to go, and how to function. Eventually, an addict who settles into a routine of recovery awakens to their own creativity and imagination. Twelve steps are a guide for beginning a new life. Certainly it is practice throughout the stages of life. Yet, it provides a foundation for a recovering addict to create and imagine a life never lived. The community that creates a sense of belonging moves the addict creator into a place of transcendental possibility. It provides an environment for the addict to imagine the impossible and to create destiny beyond measure and into the realm of awe. Sitting in a rocking chair all by your lonesome can activate imagining and creating a world that breathes life and meaningfulness from brokenness. Imagination inspires taking pride in your home and sense of belonging. Through creativity and imagination, you will promote a spirit of transcendent survival, self-reliance, and self-determination. You begin to fuse practical skills with an artistic destiny. In this special place of belonging you will curate creativity while utilizing your imagination to enhance your well-being. This is the nature of a 12-step community.

3. A place to consolidate your energy.

A sense of belonging within community provides a place to garner energy, maintain self-worth and cultivate self-dignity when facing intolerable circumstances. Most addicts in recovery must face the difficulty of dehumanizing situations in life.  Homes that are broken, a job that has been lost, and alienation from friends and family are all formidable experiences facing most addicts in early recovery.  A 12-step group that provides a sense of community is one that helps an addict find the energy and learn the functional necessities of life. It becomes a place that addicts learn to make a way where there is no way. It is a place for addicts to wrestle and grieve moments of great hardship, pain, and sorrow triggered by others or their own addictive behavior. The Twelve-step community that provides a sense of belonging is a place that fosters life-sustaining energy and imagination that helps addicts take the rags of their life and recreate a tapestry of healing and meaningful living. In the midst of the grind of recovery that includes sadness, heartache, dehumanization, violence, and disappointment, addicts cultivate the power of resilience in a community where they have a sense of belonging.

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