Why is it that one addict helping another addict is so powerful?
“…for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The word is described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
But what does that look like in our daily lives? Empathy grows us, it connects us to others in a very real way. When we see another person suffering, we have a choice…We can connect or we can walk away.
But why do we walk away? Why is that even an option for many of us?
If you encountered a homeless person begging on the side of a busy street, would you stop? If so, what compelled you? Was it because you were moved with compassion? Were you following what you thought God would want you to do? Maybe you’re a humanitarian and felt this was a good opportunity to show some love and compassion. There are a number of reasons why we make the decision to stop for one need while passing another by.
We don’t stop for EVERY need. If we did, we wouldn’t be able to do life.
I See A Piece of Myself in You
Is it possible that we empathize more with the things we have experienced first hand? Our suffering, when recognized on the face of another person grips us and causes us to remember where we came from. So, do people who have experienced a greater level of suffering have a greater capability for empathy?
I believe empathy can be taught. As children, we observe the way our parents and caregivers connect with others and learn human compassion, but it is psychologically proven that people who share common tragedy or trauma do connect on a deeper level with others who are going through the same thing.
Look at cancer survivors, autism advocates, 911 first-responders, etc. These people take their own tragedy, suffering, and obstacles they have overcome and turn the wreckage into active empathy for others.
What does this do for the person?
I believe human empathy is healing in nature. It causes us to look outside of ourselves and find purpose. By using our own pain as a catalyst, we tap into our calling. We discover that there is endless fulfillment to be found in the act of lighting the path for the next traveler trying to find their way.
When a former addict or alcoholic has found the Solution…when they are walking free from the bondage that almost took them to their grave…they want to help others find their way.
For me, talking about who I was then and how I arrived where I am now became just as natural as brushing my teeth in the morning. The thing is, once I was pulled out of the pit, I was immediately gripped with the desire to help others. It’s no different then being a doctor and walking up on a car accident. You can’t just step over the accident victims. Why? Because you are fully aware that you have the life-saving answers these victims need. You can bring the kind of hope that looks past the broken bones and the blood in the street and say, “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to get better. It may not look like it right now or feel like it right now, but I know what the truth is.”
Except we’re better than a doctor.
Because the blood on the street used to be our own.
So, we know…first hand, that recovery isn’t just a myth.
…and we have to share that news.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction and you’re looking for a way out, please reach out for help.