As a long-time member of the NFL nation, I just finished watching the current inter-tribal meeting of the warriors (my tribe lost). We humans love our tribal culture; love to identify with a group. Even those of us with no real-world ties have our tribal loyalties: the Marlins, 49ers, Predators and so forth. These affiliations give us a feeling of belonging, of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. We wear the tribal colors, chant the tribal chants, and celebrate when our warriors triumph (and, in the case of many of us, when they don’t).
That’s a basic human need. We need to feel that we belong. We need to know that we have things in common with others – our “tribe.” These things assure us that we aren’t alone, though in reality we may have isolated ourselves from any real, sincere human contact.
The primary purpose of recovery is to move us in the direction of healthy contacts and interactions with other human beings. Because of our poor self-esteem, shame and other issues, we long ago withdrew from meaningful relationships. We may have thought we had our buddies, girlfriends, etc. while we were using, but the fact is that those were superficial connections, based on superficial things. None of those folks knew who we really were. We made certain of that.
Now, in recovery, we have the opportunity to join a new tribe, or even to help create one. This tribe can be made up of people who understand us and have similar aspirations and ethics. We can get close to and honest with these people, because we know that they are the same as we are – that they will give us unconditional love, and not judge.
Over time we become used to this sort of belonging, and as we develop our interpersonal and spiritual skills, it gets easier to relate to the world at large. We make real connections with non-addicts, and as our world expands we move finally into full participation in the lives of others – and in our own.