Do you know why geese fly in flocks? I think it’s because when a goose catches a glimpse of its own reflection, it doesn’t believe that a bowling ball with wings could possibly get off the ground. They all depend on each other to prove to themselves that they can actually fly.
How about monkeys? Have you ever seen a monkey picking the bugs off its own back? I don’t think so, and that’s why monkeys stay together in packs. If bees didn’t swarm, we wouldn’t have honey. If ants didn’t colonize, we wouldn’t have dirt piles jutting out from cracks in our sidewalks. And if moths weren’t looking for places to congregate annoyingly on warm summer nights, why would any of us have front-porch lights?
When are dogs happy? When they are sniffing each other’s turd ejectors or having their ears scratched by humans. Even cats make my point for me. They are largely solitary creatures, and they are mostly grumpy and scornful. They only purr when receiving affection from another creature.
I used to get frustrated easily when the people around me weren’t doing things the way I thought they should be done. I had a habit of refusing the help of others, preferring to do stuff myself because that was the only way I could ensure it would be completed the way I wanted.
“Is that you and all of your friends working on that?” my wife would ask when she saw me hoarding a group project for myself. Or she would hum the tune to the 1975 classic by Eric Carmen, “All by Myself.” Cute. But I never complained for fear she would ask if she could help, what with all her ideas and perspectives on the task at hand. No thanks. I just kept my head down and pushed on, now with the lyrics stuck in my head. “All by myself, Don’t wanna be, All by myself, Anymore.” And a tear sliding quietly down my cheek. Sing along if you know the words, both figuratively and literally.
It is generally accepted in the recovery community that sobriety isn’t the opposite of addiction. Connection is. Ah yes, connection. Reach out for help when you need it. Get to a meeting. No one can do it alone. Rubbish! I thought all of that advice was ridiculous. I spent ten years rejecting the need for connection and support. Coincidentally, I also spent that same ten years relapsing and failing at sobriety. Back then, when I was, “All by Myself,” I couldn’t see the relationship between those two facts.
Speaking of relationships, my wife was growing increasingly content with me living out my theme song during this period of quitting drinking, followed by quitting quitting drinking. I didn’t want any help getting sober, except for help from the one person who I mistreated and made miserable with my continued sobriety failures. In case you aren’t sure about whether animals, including humans, are designed to drink poison, consider what alcohol does to a relationship. It makes the drinker a needy, arrogant, angry, gaslighting asshole; and alcohol makes the non-drinker a jaded, abused, angry, untrusting, closed-off shell of her former self. Put that in a Bud Light commercial, and let’s see if 70% of American’s will continue to clamour for bottle after bottle of golden-amber marriage crusher.
Isolation in early abstinence from alcohol doesn’t work. Neither does piling all of the pressure for curing our disease on our loved ones. We need connection beyond the walls of our dens of drunken debauchery. We need to find our pack and get to back-bug picking.
And we’ve got options now. For the first time, the last half decade or so has seen an explosion in communities who want to flutter around the lightbulb of sobriety with us. We don’t all have to sulk into the rooms of AA, tails between our legs, and share our stink holes with each other. There are other options, based on brain science and biology, to help us remove the toxin from our lives that our lives revolve around.
But all the methodologies – from modern and science based, to spiritual practices with almost a century of mixed results – they all have one thing in common. They all require us to find connection in order to find success. We all need the examples and encouragement of others to convince us to get our downy bowling balls off the ground.
And connection is a lifelong requirement for humans. Don’t make me return to my analysis of the animal kingdom to convince you of the importance of community. But here’s the thing: community can come in so many different forms. I know lots of people transitioning into long-term sobriety, with a few years without alcohol under their belts, who share the same fear. They aren’t as afraid of relapsing as they are of still attending the same Alcoholics Anonymous meetings 30 years from now, telling and listening to the same stories. It is depressing to think of that as the only option for connection. Thankfully, there is another way.
Be a part of the solution. That’s what connection is all about. That can mean volunteering at a homeless shelter where you know addiction results in the pain of poverty and hunger. It can mean getting obnoxious about your sobriety – refusing to keep your disease a secret, and refusing to be ashamed of your sobriety. It can mean supporting organizations working to crush the stigma associated with alcoholism and recovery. Believe it or not, the people who are going up against the Anheuser Busch marketing departments could us some additional financial resources.
And you can join a guy who again feels like he is, “All by Myself,” in trying to start a movement for the benefit of the 15 millions American alcoholics, and the millions more around the globe. Listen to the new ramblings of this overly-eager sober lunatic: I want to be a part of creating the sober majority. In 2020, 70% of American adults report consuming alcohol on a regular basis. I want to see that number fall below 50% thus making drinkers-of-poison a minority subset of our population. The impact on addiction, mental health, domestic violence, crime, cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease will be more than a little profound. We can solve so many of our health and societal problems if we stop ignoring the cause. Alcohol is dangerous. In any quantity. No buts. End of sentence.
In 1965, 40% of American adults smoked. Now 15% do. The same decrease in consumption of death toxin can happen with alcohol, and the fight against big tobacco showed us what works and what doesn’t. We just need the will. And a big team of believers. Come on…let’s get our honking bowling balls off the ground.
If you want to be a part of this solution, please consider a donation to our nonprofit on a mission to crush the stigma of alcoholism.
If you are looking for your tribe, and you haven’t found your species yet, please consider SHOUT Sobriety for high-functioning alcoholics in early sobriety.
Or maybe the connection of Echoes of Recovery is just what you need. We provide empathy and support to the loved ones of alcoholics.