When in the rooms of recovery, you often hear how people are depending on each other for support not only in staying sober, but for handling the difficult situations of life. The Twelve Steps are meant to guide us towards a God-reliance, which can be difficult to have without the help of others.
Others Can Point out in Us What We Are Blind to
Satan loves to keep us in isolation. It is in isolation where our faults can become magnified and we can become overly self-centered. This is when we are at risk of lying to ourselves to cover up our faults. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we seek to hide so as not to face the reality of our sin before God.
Working with a sponsor and forming a support group can help to orient us more towards being honest with ourselves and others. When I first got sober, I was not used to being honest. Through having a sincere desire for freedom and working with a sponsor, those walls gradually came down.
When completing Step Five, my sponsor pointed out some flaws in my character that I did not see that were leading me into habitual sin. Armed with this new knowledge of myself and my defects, I was only able to stay the course and overcome them with the loving support of a support group in my 12-step program, and the young adult group that had become a regular part of my life. It was through the help of others where I entered the “school of love.”
Being Around Others Gives Us an Opportunity for Service
Step Twelve states that “having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [others], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous defines a “spiritual awakening” as a complete change in personality. God literally forms us into a new person. We are “born again.”
A lot of people when they come into a 12-step program think that they might “graduate” once they get to Step Twelve. In reality, this is only the beginning of our recovery. Many say “in order to keep it you have to give it away.” In reality, many people continue to serve others on their journey in recovery out of pure gratitude for the gift they have been given. For many, the Twelve Steps are completely life changing. We seek to wash one another’s feet as Christ taught us. Nothing is more satisfying for someone in recovery than to help someone who is still sick and suffering.
Others Can Call Us to Something Greater
Many of the greatest saints had other saints around them during their lives. There is good reason for this. We tend to adopt the traits of the people with whom we spend time. When I started attending the Young Adult Scripture Study at my parish, I often did not understand many of the theological concepts that were being discussed. But something amazing happened. It left me with a thirst for understanding and knowledge.
Had I only stuck to my 12-step meetings and not sought out this Catholic fellowship, I do not think that I would have developed the deeper understanding and appreciation of the faith I have today. I have found in the nine years I have been sober that the times I tend to stagnate spiritually are the times when I am isolated. I think that much of the reason for this is that I do not have people around me that are helping me to unlock my true potential and see myself as I am.
The Holy Spirit Leads Us to Communion
Jesus once said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). I have found this to be absolutely true in my recovery. There are times when I am struggling to hear God’s voice in my prayer life, but then somebody in my support group will say something to me that goes straight to the heart. I see this as nothing less than the Holy Spirit at work in others.
During Pentecost, when Jesus’ disciples were living in fear, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they received power from on high. One of the great miracles that happened was that the disciples began to speak in different tongues, and even foreigners were able to understand them in their native language.
The Holy Spirit is a great unifier. The Spirit brings us together so that we can more clearly hear the voice of God. In recovery, being able to determine God’s will is literally a survival skill. When we live according to self-will the eventual result is death—in a very real way. Only by depending on others to orient us towards God can we achieve long-lasting sobriety.
Jonathan has been in recovery from drugs and alcohol since 2010. The Catholic faith has always been part of his recovery. He found freedom from his addiction in modeling Christ through service to others through 12-step groups, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, youth ministry, and really any other outlet he could find. He is a strong believer in the power of Christian fellowship in recovery.