One unexpected aspect of my personal journey in recovery which has brought a series of pleasant surprises is the male bonding inherent in the process.
When I first started going to meetings, they were mostly of mixed gender. Eventually, I went to a treatment center, where most of the time, genders were separated, particularly in meetings.
This struck me as a bit odd, but then again, so did the entire process of recovery! I mean, I grew up going to Church, but holding hands and saying prayers with complete strangers wasn’t exactly second nature. It took some getting used to.
It was made very clear in the recovery process I was pursuing that getting a sponsor and taking his direction would be a central component to success. “Men with men and women with women” is how it was bluntly stated. Well just because it was made clear, doesn’t mean I got it right away. Like most things in recovery, it all came very slowly for me.
Looking back now, over seven years into my journey, with over one year of continuous sobriety, I am grateful for so many changes in myself, in my thinking, and in my relationships. Learning to cultivate deep, trusting relationships with other men is one of the many blessings of recovery.
I had always maintained great relationships with other men from my childhood, college days, and work environments. I also enjoyed relationships with other men at Church and in coaching my sons’ sports teams, but nothing could have prepared me for the intensity, the kindness, and yes, the love I have received from other men in recovery.
Like so many things, I have come to understand this love very differently than before. There is a nourishment that comes from cultivating close relationships with other men in recovery. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a weekly, ‘fathers in recovery’ meeting by my sponsor. This is a place where men come to talk about the challenges we face as fathers, sharing openly and honestly about all aspects of our most meaningful relationships.
I also attend a men’s meeting at noon every day that my work schedule allows. Seeing other men being honest about their shortcomings, their disappointments, and witnessing their growth is extremely helpful. A commitment to one another grows amongst participants in these meetings, as we see each other struggle and succeed. We watch each man’s life evolve in recovery, and usually for the better.
There is an intimacy and a power in this type of mutual support and growth over time that is very different from any other relationship in my life.
We learn to listen to each other and share the truth about our own challenges. The unconditional care and lack of judgement between men in recovery, and particularly in men’s meetings, form a very sound foundation upon which friendships are built to last. Rather than trying to impress each other, our primary focus is to connect with each other, and to understand the challenge of the present moment. How can we help each other handle the struggle of the day or the week - however big or small it may seem?
This environment of caring for one another is central to many paths in recovery. It happens in gatherings and exchanges amongst people of all different ages, backgrounds and genders. But when the focus is narrowed down to the common struggles men share in their lives and in their recoveries, bonds of trust and love can be formed very quickly.
Bonds that can carry each other through difficult times and into brighter futures - bonds that last a lifetime.