I’ve been wanting to write this article for a long time out of a deep personal gratitude. My family was saved 13 years ago when our loved one with a destructive addiction to a prescription medication made his way to rooms of support by attending rehab and attending 12-Step meetings.
No one can argue that 12 step programs have brought what is known as “ the promises“ to millions globally. Families and lives have been saved by the power of bringing people together who share experience, strength and hope with each other.
In the business world today, people share that they are feeling more isolated than ever. Technology has played a role. It has brought us exceptional tools of productivity, but has also built virtual walls that often blocks our minds from seeing everything around us. We don’t see the brown labrador puppy walking outside at lunch, the new hire across the hall, that we are missing an important teleconference, and I personally have the habit of tripping on the sidewalk at least once a month… In fact, Gallup research has shown that only 32 percent of employees feel engaged with their jobs, and thought leader Simon Sinek shares eerily that handing a kid an iPhone is like leaving the liquor cabinet wide open to our teens with a big ‘WELCOME! serve yourself’ sign! Technology increases our feel-good dopamine … Its addictive.
At work, we break out of this often tech-induced haze and competitive silos when we make eye contact with another human, when we STOP and share learning, professional strength and hope. When walls of perceived judgement go down and we speak and collaborate openly. When we understand we are not so different, you and me, and that we can help each other without giving away the proverbial ranch. I often think about the movie Avatar and the Na’vi theme song “I see you.” When we ask for help and get a mentor, we feel more seen. When we help another see things more clearly, we feel purpose, satisfaction, and our program gets better. We get better.
I have seen firsthand how people see each other and feel seen in 12 Step Programs both for addicts and family members impacted by addiction. Isolation and despair turns to hope, faith and new learning. After reflecting on this incredible impact of people helping out people in a mentoring culture, I reached out to interview a top expert in the field William C. Moyers, author of the best seller Broken and Vice President of Public Affairs at the world-class Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. He had some terrific perspectives to share:
Julie: William, first and foremost, we have now met a few times and I am blown away by your insights both personally from your life as well as from being the face of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The bringing together of two individuals in any 12 step programs has saved millions of lives. Why are these mentoring relationships so foundational to these Anonymous fellowships?
William: Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is an illness of isolation. People who struggle with these substances also struggle with shame, fear, desperation and so they tend to isolate, especially from family and friends. The antidote to addiction is togetherness, the spirit of recovery that is captured in the first word of the first step of those 12-steps. And that word is “We.” Recovery requires that “we” stick together, offer each other support, learn and listen and share, be it one-on-one or in groups.
Julie: How does a recovery program combat the isolation and loneliness? What can Corporate America learn from this?
William: As we say, there is “strength in numbers.” Especially at the beginning, the idea of not drinking or drugging can seem daunting to that person. Going it alone is hard. For guidance, inspiration, support – there’s nothing better than leaning on others for help. In corporate America this might be called a sponsorship or partnership – often that collaborative spirit means increasing the chances for success.