Tag Archives: peer pressure

Social Agreements In Recovery

by Bill

Although we’re not usually aware of it, the world runs on social agreements.  Red lights don’t stop cars.  They stop because our society agrees that (a.) intersections are dangerous places and traffic needs to be regulated, and (b.) when we see a red light facing us, we need to stop in order to avoid possible death or serious injury.

I use that as an example because, in order for social agreements to work out, there also needs to be a degree of enlightened self-interest involved.

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The Tribe

by Bill

Tonkawa TribeAs 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.

Looking For A Makeover?

When we were young, we were under terrific pressure to conform. To begin with, there were our families of origin. We depended on them for getting our needs met, although for many of us addicts that often didn’t work out too well. Nonetheless, with nowhere else to turn we settled for whatever we got and tried to become whoever our family dynamic needed us to be.

Later there were the attitudes and customs of our friends, peers at school, other adults in our lives, and strangers to whom we wished to appear a particular way. All of these people had their effects on the ways we look at the world, and the things we believe about it. In all these groups, there were pressures to conform.

Because of our desire to fit  in, we adopted many of the attitudes and outlooks of our peers.  This led to our current or past attitudes about the world and the people in it — about drugs, social norms, pornography, sobriety, fidelity with partners, honesty, and similar values.  We accepted many of these attitudes without thinking, and they became part of our world view for better or worse.  We were, without realizing it, thrust into a mold that shaped who we are today.

There’s a good chance that our old shapes won’t fit well into our new lives in recovery. Some of the values we learned, and more importantly, many of the things we came to believe about ourselves, may need to be rooted out.  We may have to re-define who and what we are in order to fit into the new lives we’ve chosen for ourselves.

That’s the job of the 12 Steps, particularly steps 4, 5, and 10. Those are the ones where we take a really honest look at our past lives and how we’re living today. They and the other steps are the templates for our new, self-designed lives.

After all, do we really want to live out a script written by someone else?