Insight on Self-Preservation vs. Community

About a year ago, I stopped going to 12 Step Meetings, and began exploring a recovery program that works for me.  I wrote about it briefly then.  Looking back, the year had its challenges, but I believe I’m finding my voice through those experiences, and for that I’m grateful.

This past weekend, I was at a camping trip and ran into someone who I knew from the rooms.  We’ll call her Linda for sake of this blog.  Linda and I talked a little about my experiences – I shared how when I would struggle or relapse, which often meant isolating and not attending meetings, I rarely heard from folks — particularly from my homegroup.  I had the impression, from what was expressed, that “they would be there for me.”  Yet, when I would go missing, there was silence – no phone calls, or texts or check-ins…with a few exceptions.  And those two folks, I continue to see today and count as a friends.  The rest are largely AWOL.  As I wrote last October, I was needing more.  I heard the promise of “community” – but what I found was far from it…at least for me.

As I told Linda about my experience, she had a single response:  “Self Preservation.”

And in that word, she summed up the value of my time in twelve step groups — it was about learning to stay alive, literally.  It helped my with some strong fundamentals and gave me new principles — much like my time in a Christian cult at college.  But, she also summed up the limitations of those groups (for me) — the very thing that had saved me reached a point where it was no longer serving my needs.  In fact, it was hindering my growth.  I needed (and still need…) to move from self-preservation to community – in all of its messy, ugly, real, but authentic beauty.  And for that transition, the rooms were no longer serving my needs.

Today, with some work and self-growth, I have a tight network of friends who do demonstrate their concern and support through phone calls, texts, or visits…even when they don’t know what to do or say, they reach out and ask how I’m doing.  They tell me I’m missed, and look for ways to reconnect.  It’s sometimes messy – sometimes awkward – but always real.  For me, that’s community.  For me, that’s the deeper connection and commitment for which I’ve been yearning.

When I was reading Peter Block’s book “Community: The Structure of Belonging” this summer, I found myself repeatedly shouting “Yes, that’s it…”  His insights and challenges are so thick with truth that I could get through about a dozen pages, before having to set it down and ponder that I had just read.  (Here’s a YouTube clip of Peter talking about his book…)  Having put the book down earlier this summer, I’ll be picking it up again – and using it, along with other resources and people in my network, to continue to grow and build deeper connections with others, and refine the role I want to play in creating intentional community.  

And for those fundamental principles, I find my friend Mark McAleavy’s reframing of the 12 Steps into an Asset-Based framework to be useful as well.

As I wrote a year ago, it’s important for me to remember that this doesn’t mean other people are wrong and I’m right. It just means that I found what has worked for me, just for today.

As someone once told me, people are in our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  I’m realizing now that the people in AA and NA were there for me for a reason, perhaps a season…but not a lifetime.

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I see life as full of possibilities and the world full of beautiful people possessing unique and often untapped talents. I’m a learner and connector, seeking ways to leverage the abundance in this world through strong community.

One thought on “Insight on Self-Preservation vs. Community”

  1. I reached out to some of the people who have exemplified the “community” in this post. I wanted to shine a light on the invisible, and thank them for being a light along my path…

    They are the “saints” in my “inner circle” mentioned in this blog, who made a difference this past year in my life and my recovery. Most of them are from my community church, Broadway UMC – though there are a couple outside of that sphere. They live what we talk about at Broadway — seeking, welcoming and valuing all people.

    When I’ve “gone missing,” they’ve reached out to me – with a text, phone call, email, card or visit… They have heart to heart conversations when necessary, share encouragement, and give great hugs… No gesture is too small… each is an act of love.

    Where some may fear to tread because they don’t want to intrude or may not know what to say or do, these individuals have chosen to take action, and it DID make a difference.

    Together and as individuals, they embody the community, the love, the family I’ve needed…it’s a blessing to find it and see it in action.

    I encourage anyone reading this…do what’s uncomfortable – take that risk and ask someone what’s going on…call or visit, text or email…or simply be there in the silence. It matters.

    I’m a better person, on a healthier track in my recovery because of these saints and my “extended family…”


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