I love the Texas Rangers. There are few things I enjoy more than going to the ballpark to watch a game.
Walking into the ballpark is like entering into a different world. I yell in a way I normally don’t yell. I eat what I normally don’t eat. I pay twelve dollars for a $1 drink. But even weirder, I high-five and hug the random strangers next to me when one of our players gets a run. In this ballpark world, the other people behind the first base line become those that I celebrate or commiserate with throughout the game as if they’re family. We’re all in it together.
This is the experience of connection. I somehow feel connected to the lady behind home plate who awkwardly cheers with a monkey puppet. I am not as annoyed by the drunk guy on my row who keeps yelling, “You SUCK!” to the other team’s pitcher. I make allowances for people’s superstitious behavior. Even if I don’t paint my stomach, I’m the same as that guy over there. We’re not paid to be on the same team, but you can’t tell that from the clothes we’re wearing or the way we cheer.
This is the same for us within the community of recovery. We don’t have to be neighbors, coworkers or best friends to experience this gift of connection. We all want the same thing. We all have a common goal. We can live in a connection that exists whether we know the people sitting next to us or we only moments ago learned their name.
In recovery we quickly learn that it’s important to surround ourselves with people. We need people cheering for us, people who have walked this path before, people who point us toward the higher purpose offered through a God of our understanding.
But sometimes, we forget we need others. We forget the goal of recovery is more than just not using or drinking. We forget that we’re becoming whole, healthy and free people capable of loving ourselves and the world around us.
We need the recovery community. We need someone to pray for us on days when we’re too discouraged to do it ourselves. We need someone to tell us when we’re getting resentful or stuck in our head or acting out of self-absorption.
And the important thing to remember is that people need us as well. I may not have the most sobriety or the most experience navigating difficult situations, but I have something to offer. I have the voice of hope and the experience of despair, and I have a phone number I can give to someone who desperately needs a cheerleader.
My first sponsor told me that I wasn’t allowed to ask myself if I “needed” a meeting. She told me, “Meetings aren’t about you. It’s about the other people in the room. Maybe you don’t feel you need a meeting, but someone else needs you there.”
Recovery is not an individual journey. It’s a group thing. And being on the same team offers the deep encouragement we need to keep moving forward.
And so, we stand next to each other, cheering for one another, hugging strangers, offering high-fives and celebrating the grace God is willing to give each one of us.
Bonus: the 25 cent cup of coffee is a way better deal than a $12 ballpark soda.
-Chris Gibson, MDiv