“We Had To Hang Together Or Die Separately…”

There’s at least two people with very long-term sobriety that regularly attend my home group, but aren’t members. While I don’t know them apart from anything other than their weekly attendance there, I do know they’ve made it overly apparent they don’t like me much and I have no idea why. While everyone is entitled to feel the way they do, this specific situation is a trend I’ve noticed growing in the rooms of recovery that bothers me quite a bit because of something I learned from my recovery work and from the words of Bill Wilson.

But before I delve into that, I’m sure some might be wondering how I know these specific individuals I’m speaking of don’t like me? Well for starters, neither look me in the eyes when I reach out to shake their hands prior to the start of every meeting, yet for most others they do. Second, when I speak during a meeting, both close their eyes and occasionally make facial gestures that speak volumes. And lastly, any time I’ve tried to be friendly to either, it’s always been met with strong frigidness and avoidance.

Nevertheless, while there are plenty of others who attend my home group that do enjoy greeting me, listening to me share when I do, and engaging me in friendly conversation, what bothers me about these two and the many others I see doing similar behaviors these days is something that dates back to what Bill Wilson said over six decades ago about the fellowship of recovery.

“Soon A.A. was beset by these very problems on every side and in every group. But out of this frightening and at first disrupting experience the conviction grew that A.A.’s had to hang together or die separately. We had to unify our Fellowship or pass off the scene.”

These lines were written in the Foreword to the Second Edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and ever since I first read them, I have taken them extremely seriously.

You see, fellowship is something most of us didn’t have when we were active in our disease, as each of us who ever succumbed deep into the addiction had one thing usually present during it and that was the lack of friends, connection, love, and support. Yet they are precisely the very things Bill discovered were necessary to help the suffering individual achieve sobriety and eventually total recovery.

When I first discovered the rooms of recovery, it was all those hugs and “keep coming back’s” I received, all those handshakes and friendly smiles, and all those invitations to coffees, game nights, and other 12 Step meetings that kept me returning week after week. But for some reason I’ve noticed these things have been dying out in many of the rooms I’ve attended in the past five years or so. Cliques have been forming, people have been introverting more than not, choosing only to connect with those who fit within the realm they feel comfortable in, which is exactly opposite of what I believe Bill Wilson saw was necessary for the survival of not only the program of Alcoholics Anonymous but also for each of us individually as well.

Ponder this for a moment if you happen to be a recovering addict of any kind. Can you imagine walking into one room of recovery after another where each were nothing more than small groups of people attending who only paid attention and offered their fellowship to those they felt they could relate to? Think of all the people that might enter the door and feel alienated because of this, because they don’t fit into any of those molds, and instead choose to go back out on the streets because at least there they could continue to numb themselves from the pain of feeling alone. That is the very reason why Fellowship is so critical for ALL of us and what Bill saw was crucial to the survival of Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole.

If I had walked in the door to the 12 Step Meeting where I first found recovery and was met with nothing more than a cold chair to sit in, I personally wouldn’t have come back. But thankfully, that wasn’t my first experience. Rather, I was met with huge hugs, people singing songs while they set up the room for the meeting, others offering me a cup of coffee, and then invitations after the meeting to dine out for pizza. That is what really drew me back week after week, which is why I’m so upset with how I’m noticing individuals with such long-term sobriety are doing nothing more that judging and segregating instead of unifying and fellowshipping.

Sadly, I continue to hear stories of this from others who are experiencing this very thing a lot more in recent years and because of it, have chosen to stop coming to the meetings. Thankfully, I haven’t followed them yet because I still see some good fellowship out there in the program like within each of my home group members who do try to go out of their way to make me and everyone else at our meeting feel a part of something rather than not a part of something.

I honestly think Bill Wilson would be proud of the members of my home group, but sadly not so much with individuals like the two I’m speaking of who attend our meeting each week and all others like them who are doing the very thing in the rooms of recovery that Bill Wilson didn’t want, which was to create separatism, instead of unity.

Regardless, I’m just glad my first sponsor taught me the importance of the unity in fellowship that Bill spoke of and also showed me how it was just as important to love everyone equally, because that’s the very thing I know that Christ would want of me as well. Hopefully one day everyone who enters the rooms of recovery will be met with the same love and fellowship I see the members of my home group offering, because that is the very essence I feel is beneath the 12 Steps, Bill Wilson, and Christ himself.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson