Active addiction is one of the world’s most effective ways of hiding who we really are. The stigma associated with it taints us and after a while we buy into it ourselves, magnifying our lack of self-worth. The longer and harder we use drugs, the more of our true self goes into hiding and remains hidden. We get further and further away from who we really are. The injuries we inflict upon ourselves and others multiply, and deep down we fear that we are inherently undeserving of the acceptance of others. Consequently, for most of us the genuinely warm welcome, empathic understanding, and unconditional positive regard we receive in twelve-step programs of recovery is emotionally corrective. It offers a sanctuary that encourages us to take the healthy risks intrinsic to learning new and different ways of relating to ourselves and others, and grow beyond the boundaries of that which is familiar to us. It changes how we see ourselves, opening the door to self-acceptance. If others can accept me for who I am, even after I’ve bared the most carefully concealed parts of my persona and the worst things I’ve ever done, then maybe, just maybe, I’m worthy of acceptance and I can begin to learn to accept myself. Self-acceptance is essential in order to heal from the ravages of addiction. The extraordinary acceptance I experienced in my twelve-step program was immediate and reflected a degree of unconditional positive regard that blew me away. That experience of acceptance without qualification continued as I transitioned to twelve-step meetings back in Tucson. Although there were some minor though distinct differences between the meetings in Las Vegas and those in Tucson, they were much more the same than they were different. There are many individual differences among the people at any given twelve-step meeting: all the colors of the racial and ethnic rainbow; the entire socioeconomic ladder—from the homeless and desperately indigent to service workers and blue collar tradespeople to physicians, attorneys, and other affluent white collar folks; and the full educational spectrum, from high school drop outs to PhDs and everything in between. In the case of my particular twelve-step program, the individual differences also include the complete gamut of so-called “drugs of choice,” from street drugs—cocaine/crack, heroin/opiates, meth/speed, marijuana, hallucinogens, to those prescribed by a doctor—painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives; or bought at a store like alcohol. Addiction is a great equalizer, and a shared interest in recovery brings together this unusual assortment of people who would otherwise come in contact with one another only in passing. Somehow, the similarities that connect this diverse group of individuals overwhelm the vast differences between them. The commonalities we share: what we did in our active addiction—to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to others; the depths to which we sank en route to that place where we became sufficiently motivated to try to find a new way to live; our desire to remain free from active addiction; our challenges and struggles toward that goal, and faith in our twelve-step program as a pathway, to not only to achieve that goal one day at a time, but to learn how to live a meaningful and value-directed life—generate a deep connection that translates to empathic understanding and mutual support. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).