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Why We Identify with Each Other


Why we identify with one anotherAs drug and alcohol addicts, many of us have had similar experiences. Being arrested, blacking out, getting high and scoring drugs are experiences that most addicts can share. Many of us have shady pasts that we are ashamed of and rightfully so. When we share these experiences, we ought to speak of them as the ways of our past, not our present. I feel that when we share about our past mistakes, we ought to do so in the context of learning from our mistakes and admitting that what we did was wrong.  This way we can learn from one another’s experience, and possibly avoid making the same mistakes.

Not all stories are similar. Many of us have had experiences that are much different from others. However, there is a saying that goes “Look for the similarities, not the differences”.  This means that even though at first the story appears to be completely different from your own, there are always ways in which it is similar to your own. It is important to have an attitude like this, because AA unity is important, and it helps my recovery. When I go to meetings, I try to identify with the experiences other addicts share, because by relating to the stories, insight and understanding that others share, I am able to derive more meaning from what they are saying, and apply what works for them to my problems.

Since I have been sober, I have been going to a lot of AA meetings and hearing a lot of people share. Sharing our experiences is a great way to get them off of our chest. It allows us to express emotions that may have been repressed for a long time, or even talk about things that have been buried deep inside our psyche.  It has also been beneficial for me, because I get to see that there are others out there that feel and think the way I do.

It is recommended that when addicts share about their past experiences they do not glorify their past experiences. Trading war stories is commonplace at AA meetings, but sometimes addicts don’t make time in their share for how they found the solution. It is great to hear what addiction was like for them, and the funny and tragic stories that took place during that time, but we also need to hear how and why it changed for them.  While the telling of the war stories helps the person identify with the speaker, if they do not get to the solution, they are only identifying with the speakers problem and not the solution.

Sadly, some of these addicts who get caught up in the past haven’t really found the solution.  They are still searching for it. Maybe they are struggling to identify with a group that has found some answers to the problems they face?   Maybe they just need to get things off their chest?   I call this type of sharing, “dumping” and find it not as helpful as when they stick to the format and share, “What it was like, What happened and What it is like now.”   When I am in a meeting and the people sharing are dumping, identifying with them is still a helpful tool.  It allows me to; see how I can be of service to them or show me what I still need to work on in myself.

In some situations, differences make it hard to relate to one another. Because of age, background or drug of choice, addicts may be anti-social or “closed off” from others who differ from them. Listening to other addicts, even those who differ from us, share their experiences can always be beneficial if we focus on the similarities. It can cut the deep roots of loneliness and separation we felt while in our disease, and relapse it with a sense of purpose and belonging.


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Kevin Giles is a product of Santa Cruz, CA – the stoner capitol of the world. A born again Christian, Kevin loves his Lord Jesus and believes that his purpose in life is determined by God. He first entered drug recovery at the age of 19, suffering from an addiction to marijuana. He is a recent graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master’s degree in Christian Ministry. Passionate about God’s Word, he aspires to become a pastor or missionary. Kevin has also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Monterey Bay. His interests include traveling, movies, golf, fitness and reading. He also enjoys being outdoors as well as spending time with friends and family. Kevin’s faith, education and life experience give him a unique perspective on addiction, recovery and spirituality.

Filed under: Recovery · Tags: identification, identifying, looking for the similarities, sobriety, tools of sobriety is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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