If sitting in any 12-step meeting or group therapy for that matter anywhere on the planet, one usually hears statements like “I never felt like I fit in” or “I felt so alone and afraid most of my life.” This common thread seems to reflect an ailment that is indicative of the pain that humans suffer when various factors create the dynamic of isolation whether perceived or real. One of the reasons that recovery communities have such a healing effect is that the reasons for joining reflect feeling broken or imperfect accompanied by guilt and shame. This common denominator of woundedness and the surrendering to its reality tends to unify persons in the common admission rather than reinforcing it in isolation. The unified voices of “welcome”, “me too” and “glad you are here” after admitting your utter failure tend to normalize the humiliation and offer inclusiveness and acceptance.
Perhaps we in our intentions to bolster the individual’s self-worth have over indulged in the practice of competition, winning, acquisition and success at all costs. In Darwin’s, The Descent of Man, he mentions survival of the fittest twice and love 95 times. In the animal world the human is in no way the strongest or fastest but instead has the ability to cooperate and empathize thereby fostering a more intelligent and social means of achieving. Science has begun to conceptualize and identify the presence of “mirror neurons” in us that allow us to observe experiences of other humans and even other species and feel the same experience as an observer. It is like we are hard-wired in our DNA to have compassion and love and cherish democratic society. Dogs, elephants and dolphins also demonstrate the presence of these mirror neurons creating a need to live and cooperate in groups. Perhaps it is why we often cry at what is happening on the movie screen when we know it is not real. We are wired to care and empathize (don’t get me started on Toy Story 3).
So, when groups of folks who have suffered the pain and shame of addiction go out of their way to care for and help each other heal, perhaps they are actually rewiring their DNA and neurological pathways back to what we were made to be. This very act of unconditional acceptance and love seems to have the ability to create the experience of what: spirituality, divine presence, cosmic kindness, creative energy…God? The unholy pain of separation is reversed in the sacred bonding of the community. It is always hard to describe the miraculous. Perhaps Bill Wilson said it well when he was asked, “how does AA work Bill?”. His reply was “just fine.”