AA reminds us that we can’t make it alone; we really do need other people. The society we live in makes it ever so easy to live in isolation. We can’t be fully human without loving relationships with other people.
Not all relationships are helpful however. The prodigal son formed relationships when he was squandering his inheritance. Unfortunately, they were shallow relationships that didn’t support him in the quest to live the wholeness that was God’s intention for him. Early on in the AA program people come to realize that there are some relationships that will have to either change dramatically or be broken off altogether — those relationships that previously encouraged the person to be a drunk. They also come to appreciate how essential it is to have relationships with people who are with them on the road to recovery. There are days when the temptation to despair and turn back to drinking can be withstood only by making contact with others who can stand in solidarity with them.
As a person enters AA, they are given a sponsor. In the early stages of being in recovery the primary sustaining relationships with others will be ones in which they are the recipients. For some people acknowledging how much they need this kind of support will be profoundly humbling, requiring the surrender of the arrogant illusion that they can handle their problems all by themselves.
As persons move further along the road of recovery the program requires that they serve as sponsors for others. A shift begins to take place. Although they often continue to be on the receiving end, as time passes their continued recovery requires that they become accustomed to giving to others in the program. They must be there for persons who are in a more fragile place than themselves. Notice, this isn’t simply because it’s the “right thing” to do, but because it is what is required to keep them from relapsing into the kind of self-absorption that took them down in the first place.
The parallels to being a part of the Church are obvious. It has been said that being a Christian is one of those things you just can’t do alone. Recovery from bondage to sin and death doesn’t happen in isolation. Some of us are naturally “people” persons and will find this truth relatively easy to embrace. (If you are such a person, you probably find the “looking inward” part of recovery more challenging.) Others of us (myself included) are more “introverted” by nature and will need to consciously resist our inclination to go off by ourselves.
Lord Jesus, you said that where two or three are gathered together in your name, there you are as well. Help us to seek out the sustaining relationships with others who would with us the journey of following you. Amen.