My greatest experience of community has been hanging out with a group of drunks and telling them all my struggles.
I showed up to my program of recovery nearly six years ago broken, confused, and completely incapable of living life. Everything was legit unmanageable. No one could really rely on me, and I couldn’t even rely on myself. I started going to recovery meetings and started learning how to live life from these ex-drunks who had put together days and years of sobriety.
There’s a covenant that exists between alcoholics. When an alcoholic new to sobriety reaches out for help there are scores of people with sobriety time willing to be there through thick and thin. We have a common ailment, and therefore, a common bond and solution.
The experience of having sober alcoholics love me when I couldn’t even love myself shows me that there is covenant and connection amidst weakness. St. Paul talked about how “power is made perfect in weakness.” He said, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints...for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Weakness gives us the opportunity to need one another and therefore find greater strength through one another.
Rumi said, “The wound is where the light enters.” In my experience, the wound is my misunderstanding that I can do life on my own; community is the light that transforms my existence; and a covenant is created when a community recognizes how thoroughly necessary each member’s participation is for the betterment of the whole.
The weakness of alcoholism is my greatest strength, because it gave me a community. It gave me the willingness and desperation to ask for help, and a place where I can show up with all my troubles without judgment. All these troubles and weaknesses have given me the opportunity to realize I can’t do life on my own, and it feels so nice to have a group of people in my life who sincerely have my back.
You don’t need to be an alcoholic or get to a place of desperation to ask for help and welcome community into your life. Start small. Perhaps you can ask someone to help you make dinner, teach you something new, or Marie Kondo your life. Maybe you can share with someone you trust your feelings about religion or politics. The point is to start reaching out, getting vulnerable, and believing that needing humans in your life is not wrong or bad and that saying “I need help” and "this is who I am" is a strength.
Let’s get deeper. Here’s how you can be more committed to turning your weaknesses into strength:
1. Be willing to look at your shortcomings.
2. What are your greatest weaknesses? What are the things that you feel like are holding you back from living the life you truly want to live? Write them down.
3. Who do you trust to share these weaknesses with? Who can you ask for help? Is there a life coach, spiritual teacher, or trusted mentor that you can be real with? If there isn’t someone in your life right now, pray to be guided to this person.
4. Share your struggles with someone you trust. Be real about your feelings and be willing to ask for help. You’ll come to see that this process isn’t just about seeking advice or “getting fixed,” but it’s about being heard and seen.
5. Pay it forward. When you’re ready, be willing to show up and be present with someone who needs help.
Practicing these principles will bring so much value and community to your life. I like how Sebastian Junger, who wrote a book on tragedy and community, explains it. He said, “Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end.”
We are all necessary. Showing up in life with authenticity and vulnerability allows others to do the same and this shared vulnerability creates connection and community. Isn’t this, at our core, what we really want in life? To show up in our human brokenness and be accepted is truly the greatest gift. As you practice these principles, you will see a beautiful community rise up around you, and you too will see that when you are “weak” you are in fact strong.