Dear Ed,

Addicts are people who don’t want to: don’t want to feel the pain, don’t want to be uncomfortable, don’t want to feel funny, don’t want to experience the negative at all.  But if we avoid all seemingly negative experiences, how will we appreciate it when we’re having a positive one?  How will we know that we’re really alive?

As embarrassing as it was to admit it, I finally had to.  Despite all the arguments I made to the contrary, when it came right down to it I had a great deal more in common with the other people on the planet than I wanted to believe.  While it is true that the differences are what make us interesting, it is also true that the similarities are what make us human.

We are social animals.  We live in groups.  We need the security, the companionship, the socializing influence, the acceptance and positive regard of others of our kind.  We need to know that we belong, even on the days when we think there’s nowhere that we can belong.

The reasons for that go back as far as the first human families who depended on each other for survival, and family is the word we use for those closest to us.  They say that “home is the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in.”  Well, that’s not always — perhaps not even often — the case with alcoholics and other addicts, because our homes bear the brunt of the addiction’s onslaught, and often need the most repair.  That is one of the the reasons we need meetings.

During the time when we are repairing our lives, we need the knowledge that there are other people who care about us, who understand us, who know what it is like to be going through what we’re going through.  We need friends who will love us when we are unable to love ourselves, with that unconditional love that we’ve dreamed about all our lives.  Yet, in order to be truly helpful, they must be folks with whom we have no history, who won’t need to get through all that emotional baggage in order to reach out.  Nor will we.

That’s why your counselor wants you to go to meetings.  It’s why everyone in the addiction field will tell you that you need meetings or group therapy of some kind (although, I hasten to add, they are not the same thing).  It’s why your counselor probably goes herself.  It’s why I go.  Because we can sit down at a meeting and say anything we like, about any way we feel, and someone will raise their hand and say, “I’m Joe, and I’m an addict, and here’s what I did when I was in that boat….”

These are the things a friend tells another friend.  Your counselor and I both know that people who go to meetings, and keep going, often make it.  Those who don’t attend rarely make it.  In early recovery we are playing games with the rest of our lives, and sometimes we don’t do so well. It doesn’t have to be that way. We need support. And the great part is, all we have to do is go and sit there, and smile shyly at a few people, and the good things just sort of start to happen, if we let them.  “They” say, “don’t leave until the miracle happens.”  So do I.

Hang in there,


I wrote some more about meetings here.  If it sounds familiar, it’s because there really isn’t that much more to say about them, in terms of going or not going.

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