The Foundation of Recovery is Connection

Words by: Madeline McCallum. Follow more of her journey on her blog, Madeline’s Musings.

The fear of being alone is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. I think this is why illnesses, mental and physical, from mild to severe, can be so detrimental — they separate, they divide, they force us to isolate, sometimes they cause us to create self-destructive myths that push us even deeper into unbearable loneliness.

In order to fight this very strong current that pulls you into solitude, you first must believe you are worthy of connection, of being seen, of being heard. It has taken me many years, many hours of therapy, and a lot of painful self-reflection to realise that this has hindered me from forming deep, authentic relationships. And this is precisely why finding a community in recovery is important — it is part of recovery, it forms the very foundation of healing and growth. In order to quiet the voice that tells you that you don’t deserve help or that you don’t need support, you must stand firm in the fact that you are worthy of friendship. You must believe that there are people out there who will care for you and who desperately want to see you — and I mean really see you.

I am realizing that my greatest battle against my demons is waged every time I decide I am worthy of deep, fulfilling friendship.

Every time I choose fellowship, a piece of my illness fades into the background. My darkness loses a few shades, my burdens feel less heavy. Each morning when I choose connection instead of isolation, vulnerability over fear, I am growing stronger in my recovery and more fully into my authentic self.

Cultivating a community externally is even stronger when you have already connected to your own inner source. When you are reaching out from a place of lack, you are only ever going to build a forced fabrication of a network. When you begin your search for a community with an open, honest mind, you may be surprised who walks into your life. As Sylvia Plath said, “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” Relationships are living, breathing things that twist and turn and morph with the seasons. And how exciting! How lucky we are that by reaching out for someone else’s hand, we are not only filling up our own life with more meaning but we are also bringing another dimension to theirs as well.

Opening up to others can feel really scary, but it shouldn’t cause you to immediately shut down the idea of having a community. You don’t need to fling your door wide open, you simply have to crack it open, leave it ajar to possibility. In my experience, setting out to build a support network with the type of “support” you think you need already pre-determined is never as effective as just opening your heart to human connection and watching where your vulnerability takes you. Sometimes you feel the most connected to someone when talking about things that have seemingly nothing to do with you or what you are going through. I have found that forming a community is always a balancing act that consists of being very selective about who you share your energy while making sure not to isolate yourself and develop a fear of vulnerability.

In her book Choose Wonder Over Worry, Amber Rae posits, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection.” What is going to spearhead recovery the most is not throwing ourselves wildly in the opposite direction. Becoming obsessed with the other end of the spectrum is just another form of addiction, another blocker in the path, another numbing mechanism. The real work is to be found outside of the polarities, through unmasking pain by revealing our humanness to others.


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