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It can be hard to feel connected in recovery at times. Many of us know what it is like to walk into a new place and think, “I don’t belong here.” We can even have this feeling at work or places we have been a part of for years. Simply put, we feel disconnected. It’s a core part of the human experience to feel isolated at times. 

Feeling Our Feelings

The key is learning how to deal with these feelings. We may hear, “fake it till you make it.” AKA: “pretend that you aren’t wildly insecure and stressed at this moment…” Sometimes it feels like imposter syndrome. In addition, we may think we are just shy, but in our heads we hear “I’m different.” Well, get ready for the best news of your life: feeling different is actually the norm. In a strange way, we are all the same because we all feel different.

The Human Experience

It is our biology as humans to desire acceptance and to fit in with the group—the tribe—to survive. We are social creatures. Therefore, one of our greatest collective fears is that we won’t fit in. It directly impacts our sense of attachment and safety. If we feel disconnected, we feel unsafe. Also, if we are at a party worrying that everyone is judging, we isolate further. And the truth is, half the people we are intimidated by are likely in their heads wondering if we are judging them. Therefore, the thinking mind creates separation. This is taught to us for decades of our lives. We strive, we compete, we seek growth and success. And, at times this is antagonist or pits us against others. Hence, this is just part of being human. 

Feeling Like an Outsider in Recovery

Recovery is not a time to fake it ’til you make it. Chances are if you find yourself at an AA meeting, you aren’t faking. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Recovery is a golden oasis that encourages vulnerability and authenticity. Feeling connected in recovery is directly related to how much we show up. And it’s that simple. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to be willing to be vulnerable. Communication is key.

If you show up as a hot emotional mess and you will probably receive more love and support than you have in years. Sit down, listen, cry, and come back again next week. It’s OK. You will likely be surprised just how many stories sound just like yours and include the phrase, “I always felt like I was different.” Also remember, especially with 12 step meetings, everyone is new once. We have all stood in the newcomer’s shoes and know how it feels. Hands will reach out to you if you reach back.

How to Feel Connected in Recovery

It can be liberating to remember that we are interconnected. Furthermore, we all seek connection and love. We need connection. It’s by letting go of the shame that we allow ourselves space to connect. Individuals that are connected in recovery become champions of vulnerability. We have to. It is what bonds us, saves us, and sets us free. Cherish when you feel different. It makes you human, it makes you real. What’s more, someday, you will be the one extending your support to that shaky kneed newcomer in the doorway. This is the gift of connection in recovery. Service saves us, literally, from ourselves.

OK, so here are the main takeaways to finding connection. Don’t be hesitant! We’re all in this together!!!

How to Connect

  1. Let go of judgment. To start, let go of shame. It’s easier said than done, yes. But it’s possible. It’s all about perspective. Know that you are doing your best.
  2. Start small. It can be intimidating to share vulnerable feelings. Take it one thing at a time and don’t be afraid to share your emotions with others when you feel comfortable. Your gut will tell you. If you feel it is OK to dig a bit deeper into how you’re feeling, you should.
  3. Be bold. While starting small is great, it’s also important to push past your comfort zone and be bold. Be brave. Some of the emotions we have come from years of patterns, from trauma, or from past experiences. Give yourself support and strength to courageously share what you’re feeling. Others no doubt feel the same.
  4. Share your experience. It is only by sharing our experiences that we can relate to one another. When we share our stories, we lighten our own burden. Research shows that social support, camaraderie, and overall peer support go a long way for mental health.
  5. Reach out to others. One of the easiest ways to get out of our own way and feel instantly connected is to ask others how they are doing. Call that strong friend! Ask someone how they are doing. You will always be glad you did. It is through service that we find ourselves.

Image courtesy of unsplash, Roberto Nickson

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