“To succeed, most people need a community of support.” – Cheryl Strayed
Many of us are working on our recovery alone or piecing it together from various programs, therapies and online resources. These tools are powerful, but they do not replace the need for actual people. Nothing equals the relief of sharing our burdens with the right audience. Saying aloud our painful truths softens the sharpest edges of our pain, fuels our desire and reinforces our attitude.
This need for other people can seem like a terrible truth. We are exhausted by people. We are disappointed by people. We are scared of and scared by people. Yes, we know they are capable of comfort, but they are also capable of inflicting terrible hurt. We are convinced we will pay a price for reaching out and we are intent, rightly so, on protecting ourselves in these most vulnerable of circumstances.
Isolation is the root of our troubles. It cannot be the answer to it.
“Women especially are social beings, who are not content with just husband and family but must have a community, a group, an exchange with others. The only answer to this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community.” –Dorothy Day
I had worked on sobriety for quite some time before I understood that I was missing the magic ingredient of other people. I did not want to trouble anyone. I did not want to be different than anyone. And I felt no personal connection to women in recovery.
I wanted to quietly change one tiny part of my life and then get on with the rest of it. So I took the isolated approach. I troubled no one; was no different than anyone; and developed no personal connections.
To my surprise, this approach just kept looping me back to the same lonely, familiar place on the couch, where nothing ever happened and nothing ever changed. And then one fateful Saturday morning I had an epiphany: Isolation was the root of my problem. It could never be a solution to it.
And so I troubled someone. I called a friend who was different and told her I might be different, too. I made a personal connection. And it changed my life.
Certitude vs. Understanding
“There are commonly two kinds of human beings: there are people who want certitude and there are people who want understanding; and these two often cannot understand one another.” – Richard Rohr
In our most fragile moments, when we finally decide to reach out and make a call for connection, we must be clear on who gets to be on the other end of our line. The key here is to avoid those who live in and insist on certitude, and find those who value understanding.
Certitude means labels, boxes and preconceived notions. Certitude gets us nowhere. It is a rabbit hole of judgment and perfection-seeking that lands us back on our couches, siloed and silent. Certitude is a woman killer.
We need understanding. We need grace. We need true companionship that is grounded in the twin pillars of big-hearted accountability and non-judgmental standards. These things are harder to find than they should be in our culture that insists on easy answers to black and white questions. Meanwhile, we are all living – and dying – in complex shades of gray.
We become the women we need
“Time makes you bolder. Even children get older. And I’m getting older, too.” – Stevie Nicks
To truly change, we must find and stay with those who see the entire spectrum. We must find and stay with people who see that we are, and that they are, messy and wonderful and terrible and brilliant. We must find and stay with people who value authenticity over “winning.”
And then we must become these people. We must become the women we need for each other, for our children and for our futures.
True change requires you to make a call for connection. Trust your instincts. It may surprise you who ends up being on the other end of the line. I called a friend, but other women call their parents, a neighbor, a divorce lawyer. These women had thought about that call for so long that, when the moment came to actually make it, it was crystal clear who they needed to dial. It was just a matter of picking up the phone.
We cannot stay silent and apart any longer. We need one another. “Be who you needed when you were younger,” Momastery tells us. We start by acknowledging who we are now.
Reach out. Make your call. We are waiting for you.
Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She lives in Virginia where she has been working on and blogging about recovery since 2013. After years of trying to do recovery alone, she discovered the beauty of connection and friendship through She Recovers in 2017.