When I first started going to meetings I would hear people speak about how ‘connected’ they felt. It wasn’t something I could relate to at the time. During my first few weeks in the rooms I was still isolated, full of fear and questioning whether or not I belonged in twelve step recovery. Six months on things are very different, I very much feel this sense of connection and wanted to share my experience…

The overall sense of connection is difficult to describe, and it’s certainly stronger on some days and during certain periods of time. When I am feeling connected, I tend to have an internal sense of peace, happiness and purpose. Life is good, It may not be perfect, but I am grateful to be living it, happy to be a part of something bigger than myself and have a sense that things will turn out ok.

As I outline here fear is central to addiction, if we are fearful and act from fear instead of love we can make our condition worse. Fear ultimately leads to a worsening of our spiritual condition and can disconnect us, It disconnects us from our programme, from our higher power and the world around us. When this happens our addictions become stronger and we have less defence against the first drink. This is why practicing a daily programme is so important for those of us in twelve step recovery.

Some things I find helpful to find and build a sense of connection

Prayer, meditation and contact with your higher power. As someone who had given up on faith after a traumatic life experience, I wasn’t sure about how to initially approach AA’s belief in a higher power (or If I would be able to accept this). When working the steps with my sponsor I found that I was able to complete steps two and three fairly easily, my lapsed faith returned I came to believe in a higher power of my own understanding. We often call desperation a gift in recovery and perhaps my desperation played a part in helping me connect with my higher power. I was so fed-up with how life was unfolding and on coming into the rooms knew that I wanted to avoid continuing to live life as I had been.

My higher power gives me strength, it gives me hope. It acts as a source of comfort and guidance to do the right things in life. It helps give me purpose. Staying in touch with my higher power through prayer and meditation each day helps me to keep all of these things close to my heart, helps to build spiritual progress and helps me to work my programme each day and keep connected.

Working the programme. Whether it’s attending meetings, doing service, reading literature or working the steps. Making sure you’re actively engaged with the programme and putting it first, helps me to find connection even when times are hard. Sometimes it can be difficult, it can take several days to untangle my head and emotions once I’ve become disconnected, but knowing that difficult times will pass and actively working the programme, I find is the best way to work your way back to a sense of happiness, peace and serenity.

Staying in touch with fellows. One of the things I’ve realised since joining the programme is just how lonely and isolated I felt. I may have often had people around me, groups of friends, co-workers, family, but my fear would often mean that I couldn’t be open and honest around them. I would often wear a mask depending on who I was around to try and fit in, to feel accepted. I would often act out of insecurity and try to appear a certain way to mask my sense of not being enough. I wasn’t truly connected to those around me, the world or my fellow man.

Being in AA and fellowship is changing all of that, staying in touch with fellows, being open and honest and sharing my experience, strength and hope gives me a sense of closeness and community. I truly feel a part of something. We support each other unconditionally and do not judge. We are there to listen when a fellow needs support and they are in turn there for us. I find it incredible to have this in my life, by staying in contact with my sponsor and other fellows I build a sense of connection which I never had before.

Practicing gratitude. As I’ve written here, gratitude has been a big part of my early recovery. Focussing on everything I have to be thankful for gives me a sense of warmth, purpose and humility. Sharing lists with fellows gives me perspective and I stop looking to compare myself with others which would fill me with negative thoughts and feelings. Instead I focus on myself, the positivity, joy and love I have in my life. It’s a great way to help strengthen your spiritual programme and build connection.

Helping others. One of the things the programme teaches us is to be useful. Helping others helps us to right size ourselves and helps us build humility. It strengthens our bond with people and the world around us. I find that when times are hard, acting not from self-interest helps me to build connection to my programme and helps me to feel stronger in the process. So whether it’s action within the programme or with fellows, or with friends, family or even strangers, continually being useful is a good way to strengthen connection.

Why connection is important for me

The past six months have been incredibly eye opening for me. Before the programme I was angry, resentful, had little sense of purpose and no sense of meaningful belonging. Working the programme and building a sense of connection with my fellows, my programme, my higher power and the world around me gives me strength, guidance and purpose.

It’s so different to how I was living life before. I’m incredibly grateful to have the programme and this sense of connection in my life.

I’ll leave it there.

/ Jay