“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller, American author, political activist, and lecturer, the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, went on to inspire millions, depicted in The Miracle Worker (1880-1968)
Think about the tireless efforts of ants and bees. One ant or bee can’t make much of a difference, but the combined and coordinated work of thousands of the insects can result in miraculous transformation.
The same principle applies to those of us in recovery. When we first went through treatment, we probably felt as if we were alone in this endeavor, that it was alien and frightening and much too confusing to ever work, at least for us. We were unprepared, perhaps humiliated, ashamed, alienated and uncertain about what sobriety would or could mean for us and even if we had what it would take to make it through rehab. Fortunately, there were counselors and therapists and others in group therapy that helped us during our first, tentative days.
Then, once we completed treatment and entered recovery, the days of uncertainty weren’t over. We still didn’t know if we’d be able to stick it out. Plagued by recurring cravings and incessant urges, not yet grounded in the foundation of recovery, we may have slipped one or more times. What we found, however, was that we had ready access to the support and encouragement of others who had already begun their recovery journey. We found them in the 12-step rooms and in our sponsor. We gradually realized that not only were we not alone in our recovery journey, but that we were able to accomplish more together than on our own.
Take the example of our being able to deal with cravings and urges. Now, no one’s saying that someone else in the room can take away the problem of our having to figure out how to deal with such issues. But by listening to the stories of how others were able to overcome their own bout with the same problem, we can add to our own toolkit of strategies and tips that we can use to help create our own workable solution. This is the strength in numbers. One person’s idea or story, even if it worked for him or her, is not as effective as the collective wisdom of many. In the half-dozen or so success stories may be one or more that ring true to us. At least, it’s something that we can try and that’s more than we had by relying on our own methods before.
How about the boost in our self-confidence that we get from being surrounded by others who believe in recovery and want to help us achieve success in our sobriety as well? When we’re encouraged by others, we begin to believe that this recovery journey is actually something that we can take on and succeed in as well. If others can do it, we can learn from their example and benefit from their knowledge backed by their never-ending support.
When someone believes in us and wants the best for us, we are more motivated to take on the hard work that’s needed and make the changes required for us to achieve our sobriety goals. Whether our goals are simply to make it to our first month clean and sober or to be able to hold onto a job and take care of our family responsibly, when we work together with others, we’re able to benefit from the strength of solidarity and support.
While each of us may be the single ant or bee, none of us is inconsequential. We are all unique and equally important, as are our contributions – both to ourselves and the others in our recovery community. Remember, it takes a great deal of seemingly repetitive work for us to reach the point where we can stand back and realize that we have, indeed, achieved that goal that once seemed so far out of reach.
And we do it all as a part of a community of like-minded individuals working together in recovery.